By Fidelis E. Satriastanti
Last December, wildlife activists discovered that the family of a military officer in Aceh was keeping a baby orangutan as a pet. “When we tried to confiscate it, the family wouldn’t allow it,” Panut Hadisiswoyo, founding director of the Orangutan Information Center, told the Jakarta Globe in a recent interview.
When they checked back a few days later, the OIC team discovered that the regional military headquarters in Medan knew about the issue, even though the law does not allow people to own orangutans.
“This is proof of just how difficult it is to enforce wildlife protection laws,” Panut said.
“The authorities don’t consider orangutans to be important, so there’s very little being done to follow up on cases of people trading in them.”
Orangutans that live with humans are either captured as they’re driven out of their ever-shrinking habitats, which are increasingly under siege by logging and plantation interests, or specifically targeted by poachers for sale into the illegal wildlife trade.
Only 20 to 35 of the animals are seized from human owners each year, according to the OIC. When found out, the owners are only admonished.
The threat is particularly acute for the Sumatran orangutan, which is listed as critically endangered. Only around 6,600 of them are left in the wild, mostly in the Leuser forest ecosystem that straddles North Sumatra and Aceh. More....