Saturday, 18 April 2009

Orangutans Need More Protection: NGOs Say

April 17, 2009 The Jakarta Globe

Fidelis E. Satriastanti

Though the law stipulates that possessing an endangered animal is a serious criminal offense, it is accepted that simply returning the animal means escaping conviction, an activist said on Friday.

“It is a kind of tolerance for the owners of orangutans that if they are willing to give up their pets then the problem will be solved without any legal action,” said Dwi Nugroho Adhiasto of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Based on the 1990 Law on Conservation, people who posses endangered species face a maximum of five years in prison and a Rp 100 million ($9,400) fine.

However, Dwi said the law did not seem to work for orangutans because no significant legal action had ever been taken in relation to such offending.

“They only confiscated the animals but nothing happened after — no further investigations or legal charges toward the owner, or even efforts to try to find who sold it to them,” he said.

A report published on Thursday by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring group, said that there were fewer than 8,000 Sumatran orangutans in the wild.

The group had also reported previously that an estimated 2,000 orangutans have been confiscated or turned in by private owners in Indonesia over the last three decades, but no more than a handful of people have been successfully prosecuted

“Basically, the case for orangutans is not illegal trading but mostly domestication,” Dwi said.

Hardi Baktiantoro, executive director of the Center for Orangutan Protection, said there was still a lack of political will with regard to wildlife cases.

“The government still depends on nongovernmental organizations,” he said.

But Tony Suhartono, the director of biodiversity conservation at the Ministry of Forestry, questioned TRAFFIC’s report and claimed that the group had not been operating in Indonesia since 2007. “If there is any domestication of orangutans, show us where and who,” he said.