Bleak Forecast for the Future of E. Kalimantan Orangutans

20 February 2012 Science News

Bleak Forecast for the Future of E. Kalimantan Orangutans

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Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. Orangutans in Kutai National Park in East Kalimantan face a bleak future unless urgent measures are taken to stop wildlife poaching and illegal logging in the ostensibly protected area, park officials warned on Monday.

Asep Sugiatna, the head of the national park, said the main threat to the orangutans there came from poachers who often killed the endangered apes while hunting deer.

He also said they were being killed off by workers at the various logging concessions and palm oil plantations operating on the peripheries of the park, who viewed the animals as pests.

"It's these two problems that pose the greatest threat to the continued existence of the orangutans in the park," Asep said.

Park officials estimate there are around 2,000 orangutans inhabiting Kutai National Park. However, Asep said his office only had 20 forest rangers to patrol the 198,600-hectare park.

"It's nowhere near enough," he said.

"Just 20 people to guard nearly 2,000 square kilometers of forest? That's why we need to work with the local people. It helps in terms of monitoring and protecting the forest."

The park straddles the districts of East Kutai and Kutai Kartanegara, where at least two palm oil companies have been accused of slaughtering dozens of orangutans and other primates deemed to be pests.

Earlier this month, authorities uncovered more grisly evidence of this kind of practice when they found an orangutan corpse in the East Kutai area of the park.

The body had two gunshot wounds to the head, while the arms had multiple slashes believed to have been caused by a machete.

Dr. Yaya Rayadin, an orangutan researcher at Mulawarman University in Samarinda, the provincial capital, said the recent spate of killings indicated a failure on the part of the authorities to enforce the protection of the species and the sanctity of the national park.

"The authorities are fearful of saving orangutans whose habitat overlaps with logging, mining and palm oil concessions," he said. "If this keeps up, pretty soon the orangutan population here will diminish."


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