In­done­sia orang­utan sanc­tu­ary says vil­lagers en­croach­ing

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A con­ser­va­tion group says nearly a fifth of the for­est in an orang­utan sanc­tu­ary on the In­done­sian part of Bor­neo has been taken over by peo­ple, threat­en­ing ef­forts to re­ha­bil­i­tate the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered great apes for re­lease into the wild. Peo­ple thought to have mi­grated from other parts of In­done­sia have oc­cu­pied part of the sanc­tu­ary, cut down trees and planted crops in­clud­ing palm oil, Bor­neo Orang­utan Sur­vival Foun­da­tion spokesman Nico Her­manu said Thurs­day.

The hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties are near a “for­est school” where more than 20 orang­utans live semi-in­de­pen­dently and learn how to find food, build nests and other skills they need for sur­vival - a cru­cial part of their re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion from trauma of­ten in­flicted by peo­ple, who take ba­bies for pets or kill the an­i­mals for wan­der­ing into plan­ta­tions. The foun­da­tion bought the land for the 1,850-hectare (4,571acre) sanc­tu­ary from lo­cals over sev­eral years and re­stored its for­est. The fa­cil­ity now cares for 170 orang­utans over­all.

Her­manu said the foun­da­tion told the res­i­dents they were en­croach­ing on the Sam­boja Les­tari sanc­tu­ary, “but their ac­tiv­i­ties keep con­tin­u­ing.” Lo­cal po­lice have re­fused to pros­e­cute and rec­om­mended talks in­stead “which won’t solve any­thing,” he said. The foun­da­tion is now seek­ing the help of the lo­cal govern­ment in East Kal­i­man­tan prov­ince to en­sure its rights over the land. Nearly 340 hectares of the sanc­tu­ary have been en­croached, and Her­manu said some of it may have stemmed from dry sea­son fires in 2015 when part of Sam­boja Les­tari burned.

Plan­ta­tion com­pa­nies and vil­lagers of­ten de­lib­er­ately set the fires to clear land for plant­ing. The num­ber of orang­utans in Bor­neo and on the In­done­sian is­land of Su­ma­tra, rec­og­nized as sep­a­rate species and both clas­si­fied as crit­i­cally en­dan­gered has fallen pre­cip­i­tously since the 1970s. The orang­utans are pro­tected species in In­done­sia and Malaysia but de­for­esta­tion has dra­mat­i­cally shrunk its habi­tat, with about 40 per­cent of Bor­neo’s forests lost since the early 1970s and an­other huge swath of for­est ex­pected to be con­verted to plan­ta­tion agri­cul­ture in the next decade.

Bor­neo Orang­utan Sur­vival Foun­da­tion, one of sev­eral groups fo­cused on orang­utan con­ser­va­tion, also has 60-year con­ces­sion rights to about 86,000 hectares of for­est in Bor­neo that it bought from the govern­ment in 2011 for 12.9 bil­lion In­done­sian ru­piah. About a quar­ter of it is suit­able habi­tat for releasing orang­utans af­ter their years­long re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.—AP

SU­MA­TRA: Ve­teri­nar­ian Yenni Saraswati of Su­ma­tran Orang­utan Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gram (SOCP) car­ries a baby orang­utan at SOCP’s orang­utan re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre in Batu Mbe­lin, North Su­ma­tra, In­done­sia.—AP

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