By Kevin Heath
Conservationists at Sabah in Malaysia are celebrating a breakthrough sentence which has seen 2 palm oil plantation workers jailed for 2 years for killing an orang-utan. The Sabah Wildlife Department have also described the sentence as a ‘landmark decision’.
The two workers pleaded guilty to killing the great ape with a parang – or machete type knife – at Felda Sahabat on Jan 29th 2014. They claimed they killed the orang-utan because it had damaged palm oil plants.
The Sabah Wildlife Department disputed this and said the workers were poaching the animal for the bush meat trade.
Assistant director Dr Sen Nathan from the department said that there was a local demand for bush meat of all types.
The Borneo orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus) is classified as endangered and numbers are thought to have fallen on the island by about 50% in the last 60 years.
The Bornean orangutan is endemic to the island of Borneo where it is present in the two Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, as well as in three of the four Indonesian Provinces of Kalimantan.
The last academic survey of Borneo orangutans took place over 10 years ago between 2000 and 2003 and numbers were estimated to be between 45,000 and 65,000. Conservationists believe that current numbers or substantially below these estimates due to large-scale habitat loss over the last 10 years and increasing threats from poaching and the pet trade.