Indonesian police ask Interpol help over orangutan deaths | Asia Pacific

Indonesian police ask Interpol help over orangutan deaths

Indonesian police ask Interpol help over orangutan deaths

Posted 8 December 2011, 21:51 AEST

Indonesians have been horrified at revelations palm oil workers at a Malaysian plantation in Kalimantan were paid around ninety US dollars for each orang-utan they killed, as part of a program of pest control.

Police in Kalimantan say they've asked for help from Interpol and the Malaysian embassy, to track down the plantation's former general manager.

Presenter: Nasya Bahfen

Speakers: Arfiana Khairunnisa, head of Kalimantan branch of the Centre for Orangutan Protection; Conservation scientist Dr Erik Maijaard from People and Nature Consulting International, Bali

BAHFEN

The harming of orang-utans is a problem that has increased as palm oil plantations take over the sprawling jungles of Borneo. This massive island is divided among the Indonesian province of Kalimantan, two Malaysian states, and the sovereign country of Brunei. Arfiana Khairunnisa heads the Kalimantan branch of the Centre for Orangutan Protection.

KHAIRUNNISA

We assist the forest police to rescue the orang-utans that are illegally kept as pets by the community. We investigate and document, to find evidence of crimes against orang-utans. We assist the best zoos for orang-utans and we do campaigns to force the government to enforce the law for orang-utans.

BAHFEN

She says that since the Centre was founded in 2007 the number of orang-utans killed or kidnapped has increased.

KHAIRUNNISA

Yes, yes, many. Maybe I'll describe it - for example about one thousand two

undred orang-utans were rescued from palm oil plantations.

BAHFEN

Conservation scientist Dr Erik Maijaard is an adviser with People and Nature Consulting International in Bali. He's worked in Indonesia since the 1990s, studying orang-utan habitats and populations. He says that while most people understand that orang-utans are a protected species, there are those in some parts of the archipelago who don't.

MEIJAARD

We conducted a range of interviews, interviewing about seven thousand people in Kalimantan and what we found was that out of those people about eighty per cent were aware of the protected status of orang-utans but about twenty percent, primarily people in the interior of Borneo, at least claim to be unaware of the protected status. So there is a lack of awareness still.

BAHFEN

Dr Meijaard says apart from a lack of awareness in some parts of Kalimantan, there's also been a lack of deterrence so far when it comes to harming the orangutans.

MEIJAARD

Well orang-utans are a protected species and have been protected for nearly a

undred years, but in those hundred years I think one or two people have gone to jail for anything illegal to do with orang-utans so it's not a strong deterrent even though orang-utans are protected no one has actually been punished for killing them or destroying their habitat.

BAHFEN

Four suspects have been named so far in the killing of around twenty orang-utans, in the area surrounding the Malaysian plantation firm PT Khaleda Agroprima Malindo, while another two are being sought by the Indonesian authorities. They include the former general manager of the firm, who is now the focus of a request for help from Interpol by the Kalimantan police. The Centre for Orangutan Protection's Arfiana Khairunnisa has welcomed the developments.

KHAIRUNNISA

Well the government must do their law enforcement of course. So far there are six people that have been prosecuted because they have killed orang-utans.

BAHFEN

Conservation scientist Dr Meijaard is also hopeful about the most recent case.

MEIJAARD

These cases are being taken seriously in court by the police and so on and people are actually punished according to the Indonesian law. I think that will set actually a very strong precedent and people will pick up on it, it's in the news all the time. People will get to understand that this is indeed illegal - you're not allowed to kill orang-utans and if you do there are consequences.

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