April 18, 2012 a specialist Orangutan rescue team from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) and BKSDA Aceh rescued a large adult male orangutan trapped in a small pocket of forest in the Tripa peat swamps, surrounded by encroaching palm oil plantations.
Conservationists today rescued an adult male orangutan from a pocket of forest in Tripa, an area of deep peat that is at the center of battle over Indonesia’s commitment to reducing deforestation.
A rescue team from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) and BKSDA Aceh (the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s nature conservation agency in Aceh) captured the red ape in a fragment of forest near the edge of an oil palm concessions that is currently being contested by environmentalists and Indonesia’s REDD+ Task Force. The concession, which is controlled by palm oil company PT Kallista Alam, was granted last year by former Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf. Environmentalists and local communities say the license was granted illegally, breaking a national moratorium on new forest concessions in peatlands, violating a decree on deep peat conversion, and ignoring the area’s protected status as part of the Greater Leuser Ecosystem. The Ministry of Environment — at the prodding of the REDD+ Task Force — is now investigating the license. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of the REDD+ Task Force, says PT Kallista Alam could face criminal charges for clearing the forest.
The rescued orangutan was underweight, showing signs of malnutrition, according to Yenny Saraswati, a veterinarian with SOCP.
“If we hadn’t rescued him now he would eventually have starved to death”, she said in a statement. “We’ve rescued
several orangutans like this in Tripa over the last few years. We don’t like doing it, its risky for
the animals as after they’re darted they fall from the tree and can get serious injuries, like
broken bones. It would be much better for them if they could simply stay in the forests, but if
the forests are disappearing, we have to try to do something!”
Indrianto, a field worker with YEL, added that orangutans living in proximity to oil palm plantations face significant risks.
“Many orangutans get killed or captured by plantation workers, some ending up as illegal
pets,” said Indrianto. “The orangutan we rescued today had already begun eating the shoots of oil palm
seedlings nearby, as he had nothing else to eat, and would almost certainly have been killed
for this if we hadn’t intervened.”
SCOP Director Ian Singleton said that unless remaining forests in Tripa are immediately protected and clearing halted, remaining orangutans face a dire future.
“We have been forced to take action and rescue this Sumatran orangutan today as otherwise he would have starved to death, and many other orangutans in Tripa are facing the same fate, if legal actions against those companies breaking national laws cannot immediately stop the destruction”.