Today an orangutan rescue team from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) and BKSDA Aceh (the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s nature conservation agency in Aceh) successfully rescued a large adult male orangutan trapped in a small pocket of forest in the Tripa peat swamps, surrounded by encroaching palm oil plantations.
The large Sumatran orangutan was identified by YEL field staff as being at high risk as the small forested area in which he was isolated is continuously encroached upon for palm oil. The area measuring less than 1 hectare and situated very near the northern end of a palm oil concession currently being contested legally in court, was bare of fruit, and the large Sumatran orangutan was already showing signs of malnutrition.
“We first saw this orangutan about three months ago and it looks like he’s lost around 30% of his body weight since then,” noted SOCP veterinarian drh Yenny Saraswati, who carried out the capture.
“If we hadn’t rescued him now he would eventually have starved to death,” she added. “We’ve rescued several orangutans like this in Tripa over the last few years. We don’t like doing it, it’s risky for the animals as after they’re darted they fall from the tree and can get serious injuries, like broken bones. It would be much better for them if they could simply stay in the forests, but ifthe forests are disappearing, we have to try to do something!”
Indrianto, a field worker with YEL, explained, “In these situations it really is a race against time. Many orangutans get killed or captured by plantation workers, some ending up as illegal pets. The orangutan we rescued today had already begun eating the shoots of oil palm seedlings nearby, as he had nothing else to eat, and would almost certainly have been killed for this if we hadn’t intervened.”
“Several palm oil companies are continuing to destroy the habitat of the Critically Endangered orangutans in Tripa, including PT Kallista Alam and PT Surya Panen Subur 2, both of whose concessions begin just a few hundred meters from the rescue location. This is despite a number of legal investigations into their activities,” said SOCP Director Dr. Ian Singleton.
Added Dr. Singleton, “We have been forced to take action and rescue this Sumatran orangutan today as otherwise he would have starved to death, and many other orangutans in Tripa are facing the same fate, if legal actions against those companies breaking national laws cannot immediately stop the destruction”.
“The Tripa peat swamp forest supports the highest density of orangutans anywhere on earth, but is still being cleared by palm oil companies who think they are beyond the reach of the law. The situation is urgent and requires action, not words, to save Tripa’s remaining orangutans.”
The Head of the Indonesian Government’s special REDD+ Task Force, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, yesterday announced an immediate detailed investigation to determine if land allocation for palm oil plantations in Tripa has been in accordance with prevailing national laws and administrative procedures, and if the plantation companies are operating on the ground in accordance with national laws.
He demanded that the Ministry of the Environment and the Head of the Indonesian National Police conduct further investigations. If legal evidence of law-breaking is found, he expects that the Ministry of the Environment and the National Police will take appropriate actions to bring a halt to these activities, to penalize the offenders, and to recover the losses caused by ecosystem degradation within the Leuser Ecosystem National Strategic Area.
Editied by Tom at Orangutan Conservancy