The Jakarta Post
An 11-month-old male orangutan was found dead by authorities in North Sumatra in a grim scene after it had been held as a pet by a resident who later declared he no longer had the money to nurture the great ape.
Officials from the Orangutan Information Center (OIC), Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), the National Police and the Indonesian Military got a tip-off from the public that an orangutan had died in Rih Tengah village of Kutabuluh district, Karo regency.
Karo 0205 military district commander Lt. Col. Taufik Rizal confirmed the finding.
The team went there on Tuesday and found the remains of what they suspect was the baby orangutan. The body was mostly skeleton, except for the arms. The skull and the [other bones] were found in separate places of the village, said OIC deputy director M. Indra Kurnia.
Indra said the baby orangutan had been caught by residents of Bukit Barisan forest in Karo. Later, it was kept by a resident of Rih Tengah village.
“He claimed that he had kept the baby orangutan for four months,” Indra told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
An official from a government team holds what is believed to be the skull of a baby orangutan in Rih Tengah village of Kutabuluh district, Karo regency, North Sumatra. (Tribunnews.com/Tribun Medan)
The pet keeper told the police the orangutan had died about two weeks ago and he had buried it near his house, but not long after that, a dog had dug up the grave and eaten the head.
Indra said they had reported the death of the orangutan to the police and Environment and Forestry Law Enforcement Department for further investigation.
“To create a deterrent effect, the owner of the orangutan has to be punished. This is important, so things like this won’t happen again,” he said.
At the end of November, a video with a message about the orangutan circulated in a WhatsApp group of Karo residents. The message said a baby orangutan had been caught near Lau Biang River in Kutabuluh district. Later a video showed a baby orangutan, believed to be the same one, being fed a banana by someone.
Initially, it was believed that the baby orangutan had been forced out of the forests along with other animals because of the loss of their habitat, either to illegal logging or volcanic activity at Mt. Sinabung.
Panut Hadisiswoyo from the OIC explained in late November that wild animals were entering villages because they were losing their natural habitat to illegal logging and rampant deforestation in the nearby Bukit Barisan mountain range in the regency.
“The forests are now barren, which is why the animals left the habitat and found food sources in villages,” said Panut.
Residents of Lau Kawar hamlet, about 10 kilometers from the mountains, claimed they had found a baby orangutan in the Lau Biang River in Kutabuluh district when they were fishing. The male orangutan was reportedly sitting alone on a river stone.
“This is the first time in decades I have seen many orangutans roaming around villages like this,” said local resident Pelin in November. In addition to the orangutans, he said villagers had also encountered other animals, such as deer and wild goats.
Later, Pelin said the owner of the baby orangutan was having a hard time feeding the animal. The owner asked if anyone wanted to keep the orangutan, but he asked for some money to “replace the money he shelled out” over the past four months. “The amount he asked was more than Rp 7 million [US$489],” said Pelin.
Not long after the footage was circulating in WhatsApp groups, there was news that the animal had died.
Karo Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Benny R. Hutadjulu said the force had opened an investigation into the death of the orangutan.
The 1990 law on natural resources conservation prohibits keeping protected animals as pets. Offenses are punishable with up to five years in prison and Rp 100 million in fines. (evi)