An orangutan discovered on an oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, with more than 40 shotgun pellets in her body has died from her injuries.
The veterinary team at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) in Nyaru Menteng tried to save the primate’s life, but she died yesterday (Thursday).
“This is one more victim of the conflict between the oil palm industry and wildlife,” said BOS Foundation spokesman Monterado Fridman. “This orangutan was brought to us in a horrific condition. Both of her legs and arms were broken and x-ray results showed more than 40 shotgun pellets in her body.”
Fridman said the adult female orangutan was discovered, “wounded and weak”, by a maintenance worker on December 3 at the Barunang Miri Estate run by PT Surya Inti Sawit Kahuripan (SISK), an oil palm company that is a subsidiary of the Makin Group.
The discovery was reported to the Central Kalimantan Conservation of Natural Resources Authority (BKSDA), who then evacuated the orangutan and brought her to the BOS Foundation.
“Our veterinary team found that her right leg was broken at the thigh, her left arm was decomposing, her upper left arm was also broken with open wounds, and she was very thin because of malnutrition,” Fridman said.
“The team estimated that her injuries were more than three days old. X-ray results showed ten shotgun pellets in her head, eight pellets in her left leg and pelvis, 18 pellets in her right leg and pelvis, and six pellets in her chest and right arm.”
The orangutan underwent surgery and the vets, upon approval from the BKSDA, decided to amputate her left arm.
“Her right leg was cleaned and sutured,” Fridman said. “But, despite the team’s best efforts, the orangutan died, adding to the long list of victims resulting from the ongoing conflict between industry and wildlife, as well as unsustainable practices of natural resource exploitation.”
The BOS Foundation has rescued 166 orangutans from plantations owned by the Makin group. One hundred of them have been successfully translocated into protected forests in the surrounding areas, but 19 have died, Fridman said. “Forty-seven are still being cared for by the BOS Foundation in Nyaru Menteng. Forty-four of them are releaseable and awaiting their turn to return to the wild, but three will not be able to be released and will have to remain in Nyaru Menteng for the rest of their lives.”
Orangutans are officially protected by Indonesian’s law No. 5/1990. Conservation efforts are detailed in the Strategy and Action Plan for Indonesian Orangutan Conservation 2007-20017, launched by the country’s former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in December 2007.
However, the primates are now seriously endangered and risk extinction in some areas of Indonesia, particularly North Sumatra.
There are two distinct species of orangutan, the Sumatran orangutan and the species found in Borneo. According to figures from 2004, there are only 6,600 Sumatran orangutans left in North Sumatra and Aceh provinces.
Calls for action
The BOS Foundation has called for commitment and real action from the Indonesian government, the public, and the private sector to protect orangutans through the sustainable management of natural resources, and land allocation for the primates.
“Preserving orangutan habitat doesn’t just protect orangutans from extinction. It has other environmental benefits and supports natural resource conservation. The orangutan is an umbrella species, which plays an important role in forest regeneration and is a symbol of Indonesian’s wildlife and pride. It’s high time that all parties become more concerned about orangutan conservation efforts.”
Michelle Desilets from the UK-based Orangutan Land Trust (OLT) said the trust was in close contact with the BOS Foundation to see if a prosecution was possible in the most recent case.
She called on the Indonesian authorities to take action. “It is against the law to capture, harm, or kill an orangutan,” she said, “but the law is seldom enforced.
“It’s vital that we support legal efforts to protect orangutans and their habitat and work to try to ensure that the law is enforced and violators are prosecuted.”
As habitat is cleared, Desilets says, orangutans become easy targets. “Concession holders often view them as agricultural pests as they can destroy young oil palms when they consume them in desperation. In some plantations, managers offer a bounty to the workers for the head of an orangutan.
“We started seeing these kinds of cases more than ten years ago when the palm oil boom really started to take hold, especially in Central Kalimantan, where this orangutan was found. Orangutans have been discovered with more than 100 lead pellets in their bodies.”
The director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), Ian Singleton, said such cases were all too common for those working to save orangutans in Indonesia. “This is the standard way that orangutan mothers and others are routinely killed here. They are shot, beaten, clubbed, macheted and speared, and a few ‘lucky’ infants manage to survive this and end up as illegal pets; and there are hundreds of those each year.
“Adult orangutans are notoriously strong and have huge teeth and four hands. The level of sheer adrenaline-fuelled violence needed for people to batter an orangutan to this degree without being seriously injured themselves is almost impossible to imagine.”
Article updated on 6/12/2014.