Conservation News: Illegal Wildlife Trade Flourishes in Sumatra

Caged orangutan at Limbat's 'zoo' in Kandang, Aceh on the island of Sumatra. Photo by Paul Hilton.
Caged orangutan at Limbat’s ‘zoo’ in Kandang, Aceh on the island of Sumatra. Photo by Paul Hilton.

Birchard Kellogg, special to

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 more than a dozen other species on display in this “zoo” in the town of Kandang 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 the wife of the property’s owner. The critically endangered orangutan? $200. A leopard cat? $25-$50.

A steady rotation is evident. In March, a staff member of a Sumatran conservation organization working to fight the trade witnessed a critically endangered baby sun bear on the property. About a week later, two other bears sat caged, according to the same eyewitness. None are there now.

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