The Medan Zoo in Sumatra has recently acquired two new residents – two male orangutans, confiscated from the illegal pet trade by the government conservation agency (BKSDA) in Aceh province.
Both orangutans were being illegally held in captivity in Aceh. One of the animals, named Pongky, was being kept by a high-ranking police officer. The Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) attempted to rescue Pongky in July, but when the police officer refused to give him up, they were forced to go to the government for support. Instead of placing Pongky in a rehabilitation programme to one day return to the wild, BKSDA Aceh have sent him, and another orangutan, to the Medan Zoo. The orangutans have simply swapped one life behind bars for another.
According to the Indonesian national Strategy and Action Plan for Orangutan Conservation, any orangutans confiscated from the illegal pet trade should enter a rehabilitation programme and be returned to the wild. Both orangutans should be immediately transferred to the Sumatran orangutan rehabilitation centre, rather than being caged in the Medan Zoo for the rest of their lives.
Moreover, under Indonesian law, it is illegal to keep, kill, harm, transport or trade any protected species, including the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan. However, BKSDA Aceh has failed to take any legal action against the ‘owners’ of these two orangutans.
The Indonesian government must enforce its own laws and regulations - the orangutans must be immediately transferred to the orangutan rehabilitation centre to be given a second chance at life in the wild, and the individuals who were keeping them as pets must be prosecuted.
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