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Jakarta Post

Activists call for crackdown on orangutan owners

  • Hotli Simanjuntak

    The Jakarta Post

Banda Aceh   /   Wed, August 21, 2013   /  08:00 am

Activists from the Aceh Orangutan Forum (FORA) have called on the government to take stern measures against people who keep orangutans as pets in a bid to save the endangered species in the region.

According to FORA, around 220 illegally owned orangutans in Aceh have been rescued over the last 10 years, mostly from civilians. The orangutans now live in a quarantine center in Sibolangit, North Sumatra.

'€œOf hundreds of pet orangutan cases, only one or two of them have been brought to justice,'€ FORA coordinator Ratno Sugito said during an orangutan campaign, which was held on World Orangutan Day on Aug. 19.

Ratno blamed weak law enforcement for failing to take action against rampant illegal orangutan trapping and thus deter its practice.

'€œThe strange thing is 60 percent of the people who illegally keep orangutans are government officials like civil servants, military personnel and police officers,'€ he said. Ratno urged the government to bring serious charges of illegal trading, poaching and keeping protected animals against those who own orangutans.

There are currently around 5,000 orangutans in Aceh, all located in the Mount Leuser area. Besides stricter law enforcement, Ratno also cited the importance of protecting the forests, the orangutan'€™s natural habitat.

Meanwhile, an activist from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, Ian Singelton, said forest-clearing and expansion of palm oil plantations had also contributed much to orangutan population decline.

'€œThe future existence of the orangutan completely depends on the enforcement of existing national laws, not only wildlife laws but also those governing the operations and permitting of plantation, mining and timber companies, and those relating to spatial planning,'€ said Singleton.

'€œWithout a serious improvement in law enforcement and governance, the future of both the Sumatran and Bornean species looks bleak,'€ he added.

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