Conservationists warn of increasing pet trade of wild orangutans
More and more orangutans are being pushed out of their natural habitat onto farmland in search of food as their rain forest homes have been destroyed, mainly for oil palm plantation development. Many orangutans become stranded and are unable to return to the forests. As a result, there are many cases of orangutans being captured on farmland by plantation workers and opportunistic poachers.
One case – an orangutan male thought to be around 2-year-old, was being kept illegally by an oil palm plantation worker; they named him Kedaung after the hamlet where he was found. The “owner” told the OIC rescue team that he found Kedaung on farmland next to Gunung Leuser National Park a month ago. The young orangutan had been attacked by a dog, and he had captured the wounded animal and kept him in his kitchen. Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered and are a protected species under Indonesian law, so it is completely illegal to kill, capture or harm an orangutan.
Just a week ago, the conservation team was involved in the rescue of another young male orangutan in East Aceh. This orangutan was being kept as a pet but had escaped from his cage about three months ago and had since been wandering around local farmland, unable to return to the forest and raiding local crops in order to find enough food to survive. Both the orangutans are now in the care of the Care for the Wild partner the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) at their quarantine facility near Medan.
The group says that the government must take action to enforce the law and prosecute people who keep orangutans as pets, in order to deter this illegal practice, which is undoubtedly linked to the rate of orangutan habitat loss for oil palm plantation expansion.
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