News / Asia

Borneo's Endangered Orangutans Pay Price of Progress

A pair of orangutans receive medical treatment at the Nyaru Menteng Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) center in Palangkaraya, central Kalimantan (File).
A pair of orangutans receive medical treatment at the Nyaru Menteng Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) center in Palangkaraya, central Kalimantan (File).
Kate Lamb

Just a week after the last known Javan rhino was reported dead in Vietnam, a new study shows that orangutan hunting is on the rise in one of that animal's last refuges, the Borneo region of Kalimantan. With swathes of forests being cleared for industry, the endangered primates are entering villages and plantations for food - leading villagers to kill them as pests or to eat them.

The conversion of Kalimantan’s forests into concessions for logging, pulp and paper and mining has long been a threat to the survival of the orangutan. But it is not the only one.

Dr. Erik Meijaard is the chief scientist behind the survey conducted by The Nature Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group. He says that shrinking forests go hand in hand with the mounting slaughter of endangered orangutans by local communities.

Dr. Meijard says bushmeat is part of the local lifestyle, so even if hunters are not looking for orangutans, they will eat them when they catch them.

“A lot of people like orangutan meat. I mean, people describe it as a sweet meat that has a good taste apparently. So I think that once people do have an orangutan they are quite happy to eat it… The average hunter in Borneo will be targeting pigs and deer. They are the biggest animals with the most meat. But sometimes if you don't get anything and you can catch an orangutan you'll take it.”

A member of a rescue team walks towards an unconscious orangutan after it received an anesthetic shot at the Damage rainforest in central Kalimanatan province (File)
A member of a rescue team walks towards an unconscious orangutan after it received an anesthetic shot at the Damage rainforest in central Kalimanatan province (File)

Conducted in more than 600 villages in Kalimantan, the survey showed that orangutans are sometimes deliberately targetted.

Local villagers told the researchers that oil palm companies have paid them to eradicate the endangered animals. The companies see them as pests, explains Dr. Damayanti, a lecturer in Ecology at the Agriculture Institute in Bogor who was involved in the study.

“The are instances when the community can get money if they kill orangutan because companies who see orangutan as a threat really want to decrease the population of orangutan," said Damayanti. "So if people can present some remnants of orangutan body parts, they can get money out of it. ... There is an incentive although of course none of the companies would acknowledge that, but when you go and talk to the local people then yeah.”

Dr Meijaard, says that at least two interviewees admitted to killing some 150 orangutans between them in return for money from an oil palm company.

The survey was focused on gauging community attitudes rather than determining exactly how many orangutans are left. But the researchers concluded that even if all forests are protected from now on, orangutans will be wiped out if the hunting is not adequately addressed.

A keeper feeds Elmo, a four-day-old male baby orangutan from Borneo, in an animal hospital at Taman Safari in Bogor, West Java.
A keeper feeds Elmo, a four-day-old male baby orangutan from Borneo, in an animal hospital at Taman Safari in Bogor, West Java.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has announced a national action plan to protect orangutans, but environmentalists like Dr. Meijaard say more is needed, including targeted campaigns to increase public awareness and moves to reduce corruption in the forestry and mining industries.

"There has to be a way that we as Indonesians will live together with these animals, accept them as being part of our environment and get some message out there that gets people to think about it and it has to go hand in hand with law enforcement. People should become aware that killing orangutans is just not an option anymore," said Meijaard.

Orangutans once thrived across Southeast Asia, but today they are found only in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. In the province of Kalimantan, there are an estimated 50,000 orangutans.

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid