Palangka Raya, C Kaliman (ANTARA) - President Joko Widodo’s (Jokowi’s) initial plan to embark on a working visit to Central Kalimantan Province on Thursday to review forest and peatland fire handling efforts currently stands canceled.

The head of state was expected to visit Central Kalimantan after travelling to Bangka Belitung, but the plan was called off, Fahrizal Fitri, spokesman of the Central Kalimantan administration, confirmed here on Wednesday.

"The locations to be visited under the plan were around Palangka Raya and Kapuas where quite many hotspots had been detected," he stated.

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Fitri conceded to a recent improvement in Central Kalimantan’s air quality after rains helped defuse the haze arising from forest fires.

Since August this year, forest fires have arisen in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, and South Kalimantan, producing smog that choked millions of people in those provinces, several neighboring regions, and also Malaysia and Singapore.

Human beings and animals have been bearing the brunt, as forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan are home to varied floral and faunal species, including endangered animals, such as the Sumatran tigers, Sumatran elephants, and orangutans.

Several of those animals have left their habitat to escape the fires. In Central Kalimantan, tens of orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) have contracted respiratory ailments.

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Wildfires had forced some orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) to flee their habitat and trespass on residential areas in East Kotawaringin District, Central Kalimantan Province.

"We had received reports of two orangutans at two different locations. Our team had gone on site to check on the mammals, but no orangutans were spotted at both locations," Sampit Pos Commander of the Central Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Office (BKSDA) Muriansyah had stated at Sampit Town on Sept 18.

Muriansyah confirmed that his office had received two reports from the villagers on Sept 12 and Sept 16. Two wild orangutans -- one being an adult male while the other a teen -- were spotted roaming in the bushes and palm oil plantations near residential areas.

In the meantime, dozens of orangutans undergoing rehabilitation in the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation area in Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan Province, are reportedly ailing from acute respiratory tract infection caused by haze in the past few weeks.

The afflicted orangutans, including those caged and attending forest schooling, are adults and those under the age of five, BOS Foundation veterinarian Viet had confirmed in Palangka Raya, the capital of Central Kalimantan Province, on Sept 17.

"The forest schooling location is not too far from the burned forest and likely one of the causative factors to acute respiratory tract infection in dozens of orangutans," Viet pointed out.

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Translator: Kasriadi/M Arif, Fardah
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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