Conservationists in Medan, North Sumatra, have urged the government to take swift action to stop the destruction of orangutans' habitat, as their population in North Sumatra and Aceh was on the verge of extinction.
ProFauna Indonesia chairman Rosek Nursahid said their habitat had been decimated due to ongoing deforestation in both provinces.
He said the current orangutan population was estimated at around 6,000 with the largest concentrations in West Leuser, East Leuser and Rawa Singkil in Aceh, while a limited number could still be found in the Batang Toru Forest in North Sumatra.
Rosek added that North Sumatra and Aceh were vital for the conservation of orangutans because the Sumatran orangutan was only found in the wild in the two provinces.
'We are concerned that the Aceh and North Sumatra provincial administrations do not care about the orangutans; evident from the increasing amount of deforestation in both provinces, which has become a serious threat to the orangutan population,' Rosek said during a rally recently.
He said that in North Sumatra, the amount of forest cover had dwindled from 3.1 million hectares in 1985 to 1.6 million hectares in 2007, while in Rawa Tripa, Aceh, 75 percent of 62,000 hectares of forested area had been converted into oil palm plantations.
Rosek added that regarding the deforestation in Rawa Tripa, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment ( Walhi ) had filed a lawsuit against the Aceh governor for issuing an oil palm plantation permit to PT Kallista Alam. The Medan State Administrative Court ruled in favor of Walhi on Aug. 30, 2012.
He continued that the orangutans' habitat should not be converted into oil palm plantations or industrial forests because it was destroying the orangutan slowly and methodically.
Made Astuti, from the Ride for Orangutan campaign, said orangutans were a protected species, which should neither be traded nor reared as pets.
Astuti explained that Law No. 5/1990 stipulated that those involved in the trade of orangutans could face a five-year jail sentence and fined Rp 100 million ( US$10,300 ).
She expressed surprise that despite the existence of the law, orangutans continued to be traded.
'This proves that awareness among people and law enforcers remains low. Both issues have been blamed on the widespread destruction of forests and the trade in orangutans,' said Astuti.