Orangutans could face extinction over next 10 years
Apriadi Gunawan , The Jakarta Post , Medan Fri, 06/13/2008 10:03 AM The Archipelago
The number of orangutans could fall by nearly 50 percent over the next decade due to habitat destruction and human-animal conflicts, according to estimates by the directorate general for forest protection and nature conservation.
The current orangutan population is believed to be 61,234, according to data from the directorate general. Most are found in the forests of Borneo (54,567), with the remainder in Sumatra (6,667).
In Borneo, orangutans are found in East Kalimantan (4,825), Central Kalimantan (31,300), West Kalimantan including the neighboring Malaysian state of Sarawak (7,425) and the Malaysian state of Sabah (11,017).
In Sumatra, orangutans are found in Seulawah (43), West Central Aceh (103), East Central Aceh (337), West Leuser (2,508), Sidiangkat (134), East Leyser (1,042), Tripa Swamp (280), Trumon-Singkil (1,500), East Rawa Singkil (160), West Batang Toru (400) and East Sarulla (150).
The orangutan population in Borneo is facing the greatest risk of decline over the next 10 years, said director of biological diversity conservation at the Forestry Ministry, Toni Suhartono.
He said the rapid pace of forest destruction had attributed to habitat loss each year of between 1.5 and 2 percent in Borneo and between 1 and 1.5 percent in Sumatra.
Toni said habitat loss due to forest destruction was the main cause of the reduction in the numbers of orangutans, compounded by less significant factors such as human-animal conflicts.
The government is very concerned about the reduction in the orangutan population, said Toni.
The government has prepared an action plan to preserve habitat in order to keep the orangutan population and habitat in a stable, or even improved, condition.
Toni said the government would focus on a number of efforts in a bid to save orangutans from the threat of extinction.
The programs, due to be completed by 2017, include conservation education, research on sustainable orangutan conservation, improving cooperation with environmental groups, setting up a forum to monitor enforcement of regulations, arranging a logging schedule in orangutan habitat, issuing a law against mining in habitat areas, law enforcement and patrols against poachers.
"The government aims to have all the conservation programs realized by 2017 so as to ensure a sustainable orangutan population and the protection of its habitat," Toni said during a recent workshop organized at the North Sumatra Natural Resources Center in Medan.
About 100 participants from various agencies, higher learning institutes, NGOs and businesses attended the two-day closed-door seminar.
Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program director, Ian Singleton, who took part in the workshop, expressed doubt the action plans would be achieved by 2017 without effective law enforcement.
According to Singleton, it is essential the Indonesian government include law enforcement in the action plan.
Also necessary, he said, were public awareness campaigns on orangutan conservation and its habitat because many people were still unaware that keeping orangutans as pets was illegal.
"Based on my observations, many orangutans are being kept as pets by certain people, including individuals from the police and military, ironically," Singleton said, adding that of the 120 orangutan confiscations made by authorities, up to 70 percent had involved individuals from the security forces.