Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Jakarta, Oct 22,2013 (Antara) - Even though the orangutan, literally translated as "Person of the Forest," is one of  humankind's closest relatives in the animal kingdom, sharing some 96.4 percent of human DNA, the animal's existence remains under constant threat.
          Last September, villagers of Pelangsian, Ketapang Subdistrict, East Kotawaringin District, Central Kalimantan Province, were shocked when they came upon a decapitated body in the area. At first, they thought it was a human corpse, but it turned out to be the body of an adult male orangutan that had been beheaded.

          "The orangutan was beheaded. Looking at the wound, it was strongly believed that the animal was killed. The head was detached from the body," said Muriansyah, who works at the Sampit Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA).
            The agency had conducted an investigation before the animal's body was buried, and the case has been reported to the Ketapang Police for further investigation.   
   This was not the only orangutan reported to have been killed in Kalimantan in the last month.  The BKSDA in Central Kalimantan is, in fact, investigating the mysterious deaths of several orangutans, including those in the West and East Kotawaringin districts, in collaboration with the local police.
          Five orangutans were recently found dead, and the cause of death is suspected to be human interference, among other things, Toto Sutiyoso of the provincial BKSDA noted recently.
          "Autopsies have been performed on the orangutans' remains to determine the cause of death. The Central Kalimantan Police have conducted field investigations at the scene where the bodies were discovered," he added.
             Local residents had reported the deaths of four orangutans in Pangkalan Bun, West Kotawaringin, and another one in Sampit, East Kotawaringin.
             Several people were believed to have knowledge of the reasons behind the orangutans' deaths but had refused to divulge any information to the authorities.
             "Two weeks ago, we sent letters to some people who knew about the deaths of the orangutans, but they did not come (to the station). We plan to send letters again next week, asking them to appear here," Sutiyoso stated.
            However, an NGO reported that one of the orangutans had most likely been killed near the plantation of PT Bumi Langgeng Perdana Prada in Skonyer Kobar.
         According to Indonesia's Law No. 5/1990, on the Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystem, those who kill this protected species could face a maximum penalty of five years in jail.
          Toto Sutiyoso of the BKSDA in Central Kalimantan said it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to protect the six thousand orangutans living in the province.
         The agency has routinely organized meetings with plantation operators and the locals to discuss the protection of the orangutans.
         "We don't want to hear news of the killing of orangutans, which are regarded as pests. We will provide compensation to farmers whose plants have been damaged by orangutans," he said.        
      It is believed that in the past, orangutans had lived throughout Asia, but now the large primates are  found only on the Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands.  The Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) and the Kalimantan orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) differ slightly in appearance.
           Sumatran orangutans have lighter hair and a longer beard than their Kalimantan relatives, while Sumatran males have narrower cheek pads. Both species are endangered due to the loss of their habitats and poaching.
          In Kalimantan, there are approximately 54 thousand orangutans, though that number is declining as the quality of their habitat is deteriorating. The government and several NGOs have been working to protect these endangered primates.
           The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) recently released six more orangutans into the wild, bringing the number of great apes released since 2012 to 100.
       "We dedicate this occasion to the anniversary of the World Natural Habitat Day observed on Oct. 7," BOSF program manager Vet Agus Irwanto said.            
    The orangutans had been rescued after their habitat was transformed into an oil palm plantation. One of the six orangutans is Acong, who is 15 years old. When she was first rescued from Tenggarong and taken to Samboja Lestari, she was still a baby, between eight and nine months of age. 
    The Samboja Lestari Foundation have cared for hundreds of animals before releasing them back into the forest.  All the orangutans that were released participated in the forest school, providing an "education program" for animals to be released into the forest, she said.
          In the school, the animals are taught how to climb trees, find food available in the forest and build a nest, he added. "The top skill is building nests," Agus said.
          He noted that if the animal is able to consistently build a nest during 200 hours of observation, it is then chosen as a candidate for being released in the forest.
           At present, there are more than 500 orangutans in Samboja Lestari, 75 percent of which are eligible to be released into the forest.
          When released, the primates, accompanied by several BOSF workers and staff members, initially traveled by car for an hour from Samboja Lestari, 50 kilometers north of Balikpapan, to the Sepinggan airport.
          From there, they flew by a Cessna-type aircraft to Muara Wahau in Miau and then proceeded towards Kehje Sewen by helicopter, a 50 minute flight. Kehje Sewen is a secondary forest and a former production forest located around 600 kilometers north of Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. Because of its extreme contours, it still has a forested area that has never been exploited.
          The forest is now managed by PT Rehabilitasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia, a firm set up by the BOSF for this purpose.
         "Due to the distance and the means of transport required, it costs no less than Rp600 million to release the animals," Agus remarked.
         Thousands of orangutans have been killed or displaced due to human development that caused the loss of their habitat.  The BOSF, focusing  on orangutan rescue, rehabilitation, reintroduction, and long-term conservation, reports it has rescued thousands of orangutans over the past two decades and is currently taking care of approximately 800 orphaned orangutans at its centres in Central and East Kalimantan.
         "We need your help to release the remaining 800 orangutans in our care," the BOSF said on its website. ***4***

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