Orangutan News: Illegally Smuggled Infant Sumatran Orangutans Return to Indonesia

SOCP veterinarian drh Talitha Chairunisa helps settle young orangutans Citrawan (left) and Bobina into their new home at the SOCP orangutan quarantine center near Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia (courtesy of SOCP)
SOCP veterinarian drh Talitha Chairunisa helps settle young orangutans Citrawan (left) and Bobina into their new home at the SOCP orangutan quarantine center near Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia (courtesy of SOCP)

Two young infant Sumatran orangutans illegally smuggled into Malaysia, today returned to Sumatra to begin the process that will eventually see them return to a life in the wild, contributing to the long term survival of this Critically Endangered species.

The two infants, a male and female, aged just around one year old and named Citrawan and Bobina respectively by the Malaysian Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan), were confiscated on July 24th in Bukit Tinggi, Klang, Malaysia. Four men, comprising two locals and two Indonesians, believed to be members of a wildlife trafficking syndicate, were arrested by Perhilitan enforcement officers in the 8.30 pm operation. They had been smuggled illegally into the country via Medan in Sumatra. The protected animals were meant to be sold in Malaysia by the suspects for RM 20,000 each. The case is being investigated under the Wildlife Conservation Act.

The orangutans are now safe at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme’s (SOCP) quarantine center near Medan, North Sumatra and will be gradually introduced to other confiscated orangutans of the same age once their quarantine period is completed. They will eventually then be transferred to one of the SOCP’s two reintroduction centers in Aceh and Jambi, where they will join other orangutans that have already been released thus helping to build up a new wild population of this critically endangered species.

Dr. Ian Singleton of SOCP explained, “We are delighted to get these two little orangutans back to Sumatra, and that the smugglers were apprehended in this case and are being prosecuted. There have been far too few legal prosecutions of orangutan keepers and traders in the past, though we are seeing signs of this improving within Indonesia with two recent prosecutions in Sumatra in 2012 and 2015, and the actions of the Malaysian Wildlife Department suggest they too are also taking a stand. The main problem for the species, however, remains the loss of their habitat and the decline of the wild populations from which these two originally came.”

Infant orangutans still regularly end up as illegal pets, a phenomenon that is normally a direct result of the loss of their habitat and the killing of their mothers.

Within Indonesia it is illegal to capture, kill, trade or keep an orangutan under National Law No. 5 / 1990, with potential sentences of up to 5 years and fines of IDR 100 million. The species is also listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), under which animals smuggled out of their natural range country and confiscated should whenever possible be repatriated and returned to the wild.

The Orangutan Conservancy is a longtime supporter of the work being done by SOCP.

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