Illegal activity endangers Indonesian orangutan sanctuary

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JAKARTA, INDONESIA: As a group of rehabilitated orangutans are waiting to be released into a reserved area in Indonesia's Kalimantan, activists on Thursday stated that illegal activity in the sanctuary continues to endanger the natural habitat and its animals.

Center for Orangutan Protection chief Hardi Baktiantoro on Thursday told the Jakarta Globe that there continues to be forest crimes in the Muara Wahau district in East Kalimantan, which houses an 86,450-hectare orangutan sanctuary.

"There are still forest crimes there, from illegal logging to oil palm plantations," Baktiantoro said. "When we went down the Muara Wahau River, we found plenty of illegal sawmills, and orangutans being kept as pets."

In August, the area was designated a sanctuary and awarded to Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia, a subsidiary of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, for a fee of Rp 13 billion ($1.5 million) over 60 years.

Baktiantoro noted that just as oil palm plantations and mining concessions are heavily guarded with military and police forces, orangutan concessions should receive the same type of protections as they are state assets as well.

After the sanctuary was designated, the group received permission to release orangutans into the wild last month, and they are expecting to release the first batch later in May.

However, with illegal activity still affecting the area, the group is worried that the same pattern will be repeated in which orangutans would have to be rescued and rehabilitated again.

He also noted that it costs around $3,500 a year to rehabilitate an orangutan, and it takes around six or seven years for them to prepare their release.

(BNO NEWS )

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