KisKis, a six-year-old male orangutan, was released into the Jalin Jantho forests of Aceh on Monday. (JG Photo/ Dedek Geumpang)
This brings to six the number of orangutans released into the forest by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program since last week.
Dr. Ian Singleton, director of conservation at the Swiss-based PanEco Foundation, a partner of SOCP, said the four primates had previously been cared for — illegally — by local Acehnese people.
Before they were released into the Jalin Jantho forest, they underwent health checks at SOCP’s quarantine center in Sibolangit, North Sumatra.
Located some 80 kilometers east of Banda Aceh, the Jalin Jantho pine reserves are notorious for being the place where police raided a paramilitary training camp run by suspected terrorists in February last year.
“The Jantho forests are great for orangutans because they are rich and densely packed with trees,” Singleton said.
The four orangutans released on Monday were all aged between six and seven years of age; three were female and one male. The two others, released on March 23, consisted of a six-year-old male and an adult female, which was rescued injured from a palm oil plantation in Rawa Tripa, Nagan Raya district.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists Sumatran orangutans as critically endangered. An estimated 6,600 remain in the wild.
“The primary threat to orangutans is destruction of habitat caused by illegal logging concessions,” Singleton said, adding that the capture orangutans for the pet trade was also a major problem.
Wild populations of Sumatran orangutans are only found in the northern parts of Sumatra, with the largest numbers in the Leuser ecosystem of southeast Aceh, Singleton said.
“Leuser is the safest area for orangutans because of its higher altitude,” he said. “At lower levels their population is dwindling because of logging of the forest.”
Singleton said an additional 30 orangutans, which were seized from people keeping them illegally in Aceh, were being quarantined at SOCP’s centre in Sibolangit.
After completing their quarantine period and being granted a clean bill of health, they will also be released in Jalin Jantho, he said.
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