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Protecting Orangutans in natural habitat deemed crucial

Protecting Orangutans in natural habitat deemed crucial

The Indonesian authorities foiled a tourist's attempt to smuggle an orangutan out of Bali Island recently. (ANTARA FOTO/Nyoman Hendra Wibowo)

It is incredibly heartbreaking to see a picture of a tourist in Bali attempting to smuggle a drugged orangutan kept in a rattan basket into Russia.

During X-ray screening, Bali's conservation agency staff spotted the two-year-old male ape in the 27-year-old Russian's suitcase on March 22, 2019. The Bali police arrested the tourist, who had planned to bring home the "sleeping" orangutan and keep him as a pet.

Orangutans (orang means human and utan means forest) are among the rarest animals, as only 100 thousand of the protected species remain worldwide.

Preserving wildlife in its natural forest habitat is a vital step in ensuring that conservation efforts were successful in the long term.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), in cooperation with the Central Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Office (BKSDA) and Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park (TNBBBR) authority on March 12, 2019, released six orangutans into the park, the first of 2019's planned releases.

The six orangutans comprise three males -- Rosidin (aged 20), Tristan (16), and Borneo (1) -- as well as three females -- Borneos mother Buntok (12), Paijah (15), and Danida (13).

All six of the orangutan release candidates have come from Badak Besar Island, a forested island in the Salat Island Cluster in Pulang Pisau District, which is currently being used by the BOSF as a pre-release island.

The orangutans were released after having completed years of rehabilitation. They had to endure an approximately 10- to 12-hour-long journey across both land and river to predetermined release points in the TNBBBR forest.

The six orangutans being returned back into the wild marks the 15th release for TNBBBR since the first one conducted in the park in August 2016 and the 28th release by the BOSF Orangutan Reintroduction Program in Central Kalimantan since 2012.

This brings the total number of orangutans released by the BOSF in the TNBBBR area of Katingan District to 120, according to, Agung Nugroho, the TNBBBR head.

"We, at the TNBBBR Authority, along with the BOSF, are responsible for ensuring the safety and welfare of these orangutans. We all hope that the released orangutans would form a new, independent, and sustainable wild orangutan population, he emphasized.

“Humans benefit enormously when the natural world is sustainably maintained. Therefore, we should work together to make this happen. All stakeholders must work extremely hard to prevent land clearing, hunting, and the illegal trade of wild flora and fauna. In areas where these illegal activities are occurring, the culprits should face the full force of the law. We strongly believe that tougher law enforcement will support the preservation of the wild orangutan population,” Jamartin Sihite, the BOS Foundation CEO, remarked.

To ensure a successful conservation effort involving all stakeholders, the BOSF continues to work closely with the Government of Indonesia at all levels, including the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Central Kalimantan provincial government, the governments of Katingan and Pulang Pisau regencies, the Central Kalimantan BKSDA, and the TNBBBR Authority, according to Sihite.

Adib Gunawan, the Central Kalimantan BKSDA head, noted that his office had continued to cooperate closely with several parties actively engaged in environmental conservation efforts.

"The BOSF is helping to rehabilitate the victims of deforestation and has been regularly releasing orangutans back into natural forest habitats, as managed by our colleagues from the TNBBBR Authority," he remarked.

He expressed hope that this effort would be replicated or developed further by other stakeholders for the sake of natural conservation in the province.

Orangutans have often faced miserable ordeals, as they were captured and kept as pets, or killed since they were viewed as pests in plantations. Vast areas of their habitats have been encroached upon and converted into plantations and farming areas.

The Lestari Sumatran Orangutan Foundation-Orangutan Information Center (YOSL-OIC) had seized and rescued at least 10 orangutans in the provinces of North Sumatra and Aceh during the January-March 2019 period.

The orangutans were seized from individuals, who had reared the protected animals as pets and from palm oil plantations where the orangutans were trapped or lost sometimes, Panut Hadisiswoyo, the YOSL-OIC chairman, noted in North Sumatra on March 23, 2019.

He urged to put an end to the conversion of forests into plantations, as it could result in orangutans losing their habitats.

"Give space to other creatures to exist because our Earth is not only for human beings to live but also for other creatures, such as orangutans. Orangutan is not a dangerous animal, so when you see orangutans entering a plantation, please contact us, so we could evacuate them safely," he remarked.

The orangutans were first evacuated from where they were found and later sent to a YOSL-OIC quarantine facility in Sibolangit, North Sumatra, for medical checkup.

"Before being released into the wilderness, orangutans must undergo a health checkup at the quarantine center," he noted.

On March 21, 2019, the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Office (BKSDA) had managed to rescue and save a seven-year-old orangutan that had got lost in a palm oil plantation in Rikit Hamlet, Namo Buaya, Sultan Daulat Sub-district, Subulussalam, Aceh Province.

The female orangutan called Pertiwi was quite weak and malnourished. She weighed merely five kilograms and was unable to move her right hand.

Based on results of the health checkup, Pertiwi was unfit for release into the wild, so she had to be quarantined first.

The orangutan is the only member of the great ape family found in Asia. All other members of the great ape family located in Africa are the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), gorilla (Gorilla gorilla and Gorilla beringei), and bonobo (Pan paniscus).

Three species of the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) are distributed across the island of Borneo in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia, while the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) is found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis).

A genetic study has shown that orangutans may be more closely related to humans than scientists had earlier thought.

The first blueprint of the orangutan's genetic code has confirmed that they share 97 percent of their DNA with humans.

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