Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Killing Orangutans for their Meat is an Appalling Crime

Orangutans in Borneo are critically endangered, suffering as they do from a variety of existential challenges. The grave challenges they face in the wild include habitat loss, forest fragmentation, encroaching development and the exotic wildlife trade.

Now you can add another threat to that list: being hunted for their meat. Yes, you’ve read that right.

According to news reports, workers on a palm oil plantation in a remote area of Central Kalimantan province in neighboring Indonesia shot and killed an orangutan so they could feast on the animal’s meat. Worse: this crime was not a one-off. Yet similar incidents rarely get reported, much less investigated by local police, said an Indonesian lawmaker who has called on authorities to apprehend the culprits.

We certainly second that call. National boundaries are man-made constructs that are unrecognized by nature. Hence, a crime against orangutans in Indonesia is a crime against orangutans in Malaysia as well.

Finding the perpetrators should not be that hard, considering that a witness to the crime provided authorities with photographs, one of which shows a man with a rifle standing over the dismembered remains of a dead orangutan. “[Another] picture showed the orangutan’s head floating in a pot. In another, several people are cutting up the primate’s flesh,” the Associated Press reported.

Horrendous, yes.

The wanton murder of the intelligent and loveable primates is nothing new, of course. Plantation workers and farmers have been known to kill the animals in order to stop them from damaging their crops. Although Indonesian conservation laws prescribe a severe penalty for killing orangutans, perpetrators are often left unmolested by police. The situation is hardly better in Malaysia, where orangutans likewise end up being killed at times.

Needless to say, we can ill afford to lose any more orangutans in Borneo, no matter what side of the artificial state boundaries they may live. The iconic apes, which are endemic to the island, are critically endangered and have seen their numbers drop by as much as 60% since 1950.

Between 2010 and 2025, their numbers will likely drop by another fifth, which places the survival of the entire species at risk, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which has recently raised the alarm about the primates’ long-term prospects.