By Birchard Kellogg
In a chilly rain on Sunday, in a town just a few kilometers beyond the edge of a protected Sumatran rainforest, a young orangutan sat perched on a piece of plywood and grabbed the metal wires of his tiny cage.
He has sat in that cage for six months and, like dozens of other species on display in this “zoo” in the town of Kadang in Aceh, he has a price tag.
This packed assembly is an acknowledged front for illegal trafficking in wildlife.
“It’s a zoo, but you can buy,” said a woman on the property, The critically endangered orangutan? $200. A leopard cat? $25-$50.
A steady rotation is evident. In March, a critically endangered baby sun bear was on the property. About a week later, two other bears sat caged, according to the same eyewitness. None are there now.
Primates appear to be frequently traded, or simply die from lack of care. Eight months ago, three other orangutans were caged here, along with a gibbon that has since died. One orangutan has disappeared, likely sold. When a flood hit on May 10, one escaped and another drowned.
Trade in threatened species is illegal in Indonesia, but prosecutions are rare. As forests are increasingly cut down for plantations and mining concessions in Aceh, trafficking in wildlife is growing. According to the Sumatran Orangutan Quarantine Centre, of 143 orangutans confiscated in the province, not a single case has been prosecuted.
In a vegetable market high in nearby hills, a bird dealer approached listed a menu of protected species that poachers could procure with two-weeks’ notice. This included protected hornbills, orangutans and golden gibbons, the last going for $100. More....