At least 20,000 orangutans have been killed or captured for the illegal pet trade in the past ten years in Indonesia without a single prosecution, according to a report published by Nature Alert and the Centre for Orangutan Protection, groups that campaign on behalf of orangutans.
The report, titled The Indonesian Chainsaw Massacre, blames the Indonesian government and the palm oil industry for failing to curb the killing and trade of the endangered red ape.
“People who capture or buy orangutans know there is zero chance of being prosecuted,” said the groups in a joint statement. “Military, police and local government officials have all been found with orangutans in their homes in the full knowledge they are breaking the law.”
“The Ministry of Forestry continues, with seeming impunity, to grant permits to destroy forests known to be inhabited by protected species such as orangutans, elephants, and tigers.”
The report urges the Indonesian government to enforce existing laws designed to protect endangered species; immediately stop issuing new permits, and cancel existing permits, for logging and plantation concessions in forests that contain orangutans; and ban new roads that bisect orangutan habitat.
“Three, simple, concrete steps the government could easily take, and in so doing, save forests, wildlife and demonstrate to the world it is now serious about saving what little is left of its natural environment and flagship species like orangutans, tigers and elephants,” concluded the statement.
(08/20/2009) A baby orangutan ambles across the grass at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation’s Nyaru Menteng rehabilitation center in Central Kalimantan, in the heart of Indonesian Borneo. The ape pauses, picks up a stick and makes his way over to a plastic log, lined with small holes. Breaking the stick in two, he pokes one end into a hole in an effort to extract honey that has been deposited by a conservation worker. His expression shows the tool’s use has been fruitful. But he is not alone. To his right another orangutan has turned half a coconut shell into a helmet, two others wrestle on the lawn, and another youngster scales a papaya tree. There are dozens of orangutans, all of which are about the same age. Just outside the compound, dozens of younger orangutans are getting climbing lessons from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) staff, while still younger orangutans are being fed milk from bottles in a nearby nursery. Still more orangutans—teenagers and adults—can be found on “Orangutan Island” beyond the center’s main grounds. Meanwhile several recently wild orangutans sit in cages. This is a waiting game. BOS hopes to eventually release all of these orangutans back into their natural habitat—the majestic rainforests and swampy peatlands of Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. But for many, this is a fate that may never be realized.
(08/17/2009) Cadbury New Zealand, responding to widespread consumer protests, will stop adding palm oil to its milk chocolate products, reports the New Zealand Herald. The candy-maker substituted palm oil and other vegetable fat for cocoa butter earlier this year. The company cited cost savings for the decision, but the move triggered outcry from environmental groups who blame palm oil production for destruction of rainforests across Indonesia and Malaysia, key habitat for orangutans and other endangered species. Concerns that Cadbury chocolate could be imperiling orangutans led the Auckland Zoo and others to ban Cadbury products. Meanwhile consumers swamped the company with letters and petitions protesting its use of palm oil.
(08/16/2009) Raging fires have broken out in the peat-swamp forests of Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, threatening the largest population of orangutans in the world. The fires were started by people but have spread uncontrollably due to the extreme drought that Borneo is currently experiencing as a result of El Niño conditions.
(07/29/2009) A plan to release orangutans in a 250,000-hectare (618,000-acre) tract of forest in the Heart of Borneo has been disrupted by uncertainty around BHP Billiton’s decision to pull out of a coal mining project in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, reports the Independent and conservation groups familiar with the situation. BHP Billiton had provided funds to help establish the forest reserve in Central Kalimantan and offered conservationists mapping support and use of helicopters to deposit orangutans into otherwise inaccessible areas. The two-year program would have reintroduced scores of orangutans but the first scheduled airlift of 48 orangutans for July 20 was canceled after BHP warned it could no longer guarantee the safety of reintroduced orangutans.
(06/01/2009) Despite worldwide attention and concern, prime orangutan habitat across Sumatra and Borneo continues to be destroyed by loggers and palm oil developers, resulting in the death of up to 3,000 orangutans per year (of a population less than 50,000). Conservation groups like Borneo Orangutan Survival report rescuing record numbers of infant orangutans from oil palm plantations, which are now a far bigger source of orphaned orangutans than the illicit pet trade. The volume of orangutans entering care centers is such that these facilities are running out of room for rescued apes, with translocated individuals sometimes waiting several months until suitable forest is found for reintroduction. Even then they aren’t safe; in recent months loggers have started clearing two important reintroduction sites (forests near Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Sumatra and Mawas in Central Kalimantan). Meanwhile across half a dozen rehabilitation centers in Malaysia and Indonesia, more than 1,000 baby orangutans—their mothers killed by oil palm plantation workers or in the process of forest clearing—are being trained by humans for hopeful reintroduction into the wild, assuming secure habitat can be found. Dismayed by the rising orangutan toll, a grassroots organization in Central Kalimantan is fighting back. Led by Hardi Baktiantoro, the Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) has mounted a guerrilla-style campaign against companies that are destroying orangutan habitat in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.