Rehabilitation centers caring for more than 1,000 orangutans in Kalimantan are unable to comply with a presidential decree to release the animals back into the wild due to a shortage of suitable land, officials say.
The goal of the decree, passed in 2007, was to prevent the endangered orangutans from going extinct.
“The government’s policy to release orangutans from rehabilitation centers to the wilderness could not be carried out,” Jamartin Sihite, chief executive of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, said on Tuesday. “There isn’t enough available land that’s suitable and free from disruption.”
The foundation wants to release 50 orangutans this year in Central and East Kalimantan, and in order to do so, it had to obtain land concession rights from the Forestry Ministry. It paid Rp 13 billion ($1.4 million) for the rights to 86,450 hectares of land for the next 60 years, Jamartin said.
He said that some of the available land is not suitable for the orangutans, which can only live in areas less than 900 meters above sea level. There can only be one orangutan per 10 square kilometers, and they must have adequate access to food supplies.
“We’ve made a proposal in Central Kalimantan but it hasn’t been approved by the local administration,” Jamartin said. “We’ve obtained [approval] in East Kalimantan but it [the land] was insufficient.”
In Central Kalimantan, he said, the orangutans will be released into the Betikap conservation forest. In East Kalimantan, they will be released into the forests of Kehje Sewen, currently managed by Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia.
He added that the foundation must also consider the lifestyle practices of local communities, which have slaughtered orangutans in the past.
Oil palm plantations, coal mining companies and industrial forest plantations in the region are also a threat as they destroy much of the orangutans’ forest habitat.
Jamartin said separate land plots must be provided to protect wild orangutans because they cannot live in the same space as rehabilitated orangutans, who are unable to protect themselves when they are released into the wild. Experts say there are 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild. Eighty percent of them are in Indonesia and the rest are in Malaysia.
This article is courtesy of The Jakarta Globe and was written by Tunggadewa Mattangkilang.