Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Orangutan Killing Is Genocide: Activist

The death of orangutans as a result of human encroachment into their habitats in Kalimantan amounts to nothing less than genocide, a group advocating for the protection of the apes said on Wednesday.

Hardi Baktiantoro, a campaigner with the Center for Orangutan Protection, said the consistently high rates of orangutan deaths from human activity showed there was no progress being made to conserve the endangered species.

“This isn’t a conflict between humans and orangutans — it’s genocide,” he said. He argued that there should be far greater protection for orangutans under prevailing laws and regulations, and warned that unless the Forestry Ministry began enforcing the laws strictly, the slaughter of the apes would continue.

“Documents and action plans won’t help the orangutans, while efforts to evacuate them [from threatened areas] provide only temporary relief from the threat of death,” Hardi said.

“Even the orangutans that are released back into the wild [after rehabilitation] will just get butchered by hunters or forced to be evacuated again as long as the laws are not enforced.”

He alleged that oil palm firms were hiring people specifically to kill the animals using poison in forests where they were expanding their plantations.

He said the COP and the East Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) had found indications that at least four orangutans in the Muara Kaman area had been killed that way, with no action taken by law enforcement agencies to investigate.

However, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said his office was powerless to do anything about the deaths, short of reporting them to the police.

“The orangutan is protected by law, so it’s forbidden to kill them, remove them [from their habitat] or trade them,” he said. He added that a moratorium on new forestry permits for primary and peat forests was expected to help prevent the deaths of the apes and other endangered species.

“For 40 years, tigers and elephants, too, have been forced out of their habitats. We’re trying to save them all through the moratorium,” he said.

The COP’s statements come in response to a report from the United National Environmental Program recommending greater action to conserve orangutan habitats in Sumatra.

Serge Wich, research director for the group PanEco, which partnered with the UNEP in writing the report, said it was important that the government emphasize there was greater economic value in conserving forests than in logging them or clearing them for plantations.

The UNEP report showed that there were just 6,600 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild in 2008, down from 85,000 in 1900.

Ismira Lutfia & Arientha Primanita for Jakarta Globe

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