Smuggled orangutans flown back home to Indonesia; time to start new life

A Sumatran orangutan sits in a cage before being repatriated from Thailand to Indonesia after having been smuggled into the kingdom, at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok in December 17, 2020. - AFP

MEDAN, Indonesia, Dec 19 (AFP): Nine trafficked orangutans were flown back home to western Indonesia on Friday night (Dec 18) after the primates were rescued from the illicit wildlife trade in Malaysia.

Poachers in South-East Asia frequently capture the critically endangered Sumatran orangutans to sell as pets, and fewer than 15,000 of the apes are estimated to remain in the wild.

The group were flown to North Sumatra province on Friday, a day after arriving in Indonesia from a wildlife rescue centre in Malaysia that was caring for the creatures.

Provincial conservation official Hotmauli Sianturi told a press conference on Friday that the apes had been tested and cleared for Covid-19 infections.

They will now be taken to a sanctuary to undergo observation for a few months before they are returned to the forest.

"We will do a medical checkup and study their behaviour and habits before sending them to a forest rehabilitation centre at the Danau Alo sanctuary," head of local Natural Resources Coservation Agency (BKSDA), Rahmad Saleh told reporters, after the great apes were wheeled out in two metal cages at Jambi’s Sultan Thaha airport before media and officials, reports Reuters.

Video footage showed the female orangutans eagerly climbed out of their carriers and into a temporary holding facility.

It is unclear how long the pair will stay in the orangutan sanctuary before being released into the wild.

Orangutans are poached illegally for food, breeding to supply the domestic and international pet trade, and for traditional medicine.

Their arrival in Indonesia came the same day as another pair of orangutans were flown back to the country from a wildlife breeding centre in Thailand.

Traffickers had attempted to smuggle them into Thailand through Malaysia three years ago but were intercepted by local authorities at the border.

Sumatran orangutans' habitat has drastically shrunk over the past few decades from logging, palm oil plantations and mining.

Plantation workers and villagers sometimes attack the animals for being pests.

Logging and deforestation, including forest clearance to make way for cash crops such as palm oil, has reduced the habitat of the critically endangered species.

There are an estimated 100,000 Bornean orangutans left in the wild, and only about 7,500 Sumatran orangutans, according to data from the World Wildlife Fund.

A total of 71 orangutans have been sent back from Thailand to Indonesia since 2006, according to a joint statement released by the two countries. - AFP
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Indonesia , Orang Utans , Sanctuary , New Life , Danau Alo


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