Indonesian authorities raided a wildlife trade
operation on the island of Borneo last Monday. What they found was a
6-month-old orangutan, and three suspects trying to sell the primate infant to the pet trade.
The wildlife traffickers were arrested with help from the WCS’s Wildlife Crime Unit, the Indonesian Department of Forestry, Directorate-General for
Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA), and the Anti-Wildlife Crime
The world’s remaining wild orangutans live only on
the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Already facing major habitat destruction
threats, these endangered, red-headed great apes also risk capture for sale as pets or to
private zoo collections. Dealers prefer young orangutans. During their capture, their mothers often die trying to protect them.
"The illegal wildlife trade is a massive threat in
Indonesia, but one that can be addressed with a strong government commitment,”
said Noviar Andayani, director of WCS-Indonesia. “This case, and those over
recent years, demonstrates what is possible. Orangutans remain under threat in
Indonesia, and stopping the illegal trade must be part of a plan to
ensure their survival.”
In the last two years, authorities have made more than 20
arrests for illegal possession or trade in protected wildlife, including
endangered Sumatran tigers and pangolins, a type of anteater. WCS created the Wildlife Crime Unit
in 2003. The Unit provides data and technical advice to law enforcement agencies
for their investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes.
Unfortunately, illegal markets within Indonesia do not
only include orangutans. Birds, bats, turtles,
snakes, sharks, pangolins, rodents, and coral are all frequently traded for either food, medicines, skins, biomedical
research, souvenirs, or as pets. Populations of rhinos,
elephants, tigers, and bears also suffer from these crimes.
“The illegal trade in wildlife is a global problem
that is affecting wildlife around the world,” said Colin Poole, director of
WCS-Asia. “Enforcement actions like these are extremely important in helping
the conservation community turn the tide for this global issue.”
The baby orangutan rescued during the raid is now
being cared for at the International Animal Rescue facility in Ketapang, West