Number of RI endangered species unknown
Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The government has said it is having difficulties identifying the number of native species in danger of extinction.
Director for biological diversity affairs at the Forestry Ministry, Toni Suhartono, said much of the existing information on the number of endangered species was based on predictions made before 2000.
"The inventory data on endangered species is a classic problem. Even we don't have exact data on the animal species kept in the country's zoos," Toni told a dialog on orangutan population here Thursday.
He said the conservation of endangered species had yet to become an important issue for government officials and the public.
"The nation's awareness, including among government officials, of the conservation of endangered species is very low. It is, therefore, not easy for us to propose budgets for conservation programs," Toni said.
He said conservation activists should set up groups to investigate endangered species.
"We get updated data on the number of elephants from the community who set up a forum known as the Elephant Forum," he said.
Toni said the Elephant Forum said there were between 2,400 and 2,800 elephants across the country. "It is much lower than the previous prediction of 8,000 animals."
Internationally, endangered species are protected from trade through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
More than 140 countries, including Indonesia, have ratified the convention.
Indonesia's orangutan are on the list of animals that may not be traded under the convention.
Hardi Baktiantoro, director of the Center for Orangutan Protection, said the number of orangutan in the wild had declined rapidly due to massive habitat destruction and illegal trafficking.
"The habitat destruction from rampant illegal logging and forest fires are the greatest threat to orangutan in Indonesia," he said.
Hardi said when forests were burnt, female orangutan were often killed, while the juveniles were caught to be used as pets or sold.
He said that a juvenile was sold for about US$40,000 abroad, compared to between Rp 100,000 (US$11) and Rp 500,000 ($55) in Kalimantan.
He said that about 30 orangutans from Indonesia had been found in Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea.
"But no law enforcement has been taken yet to resolve the problem," he said.
"To make it worse, local administrations continue to issue new permits to convert forests, including for palm oil plantations."
The government is currently drafting a plan to protect the endangered species in the country.
"We will target rehabilitating about 50 percent of endangered species by 2025," Toni said.
He said that there were about 88 animal species in Indonesia in danger of extinction, including the orangutan, Javanese monkey and Sumatran tiger.