A foreign conservation group has strongly criticised Indonesia for holding a workshop on saving the orangutan at a plush Bali resort hotel instead of spending money to repatriate kidnapped primates to assist with species breeding, and for continuing to licence large-scale forest clearance for palm oil plantations.
The workshop, organised by the Forestry Ministry’s directorate-general of natural conservation and forest protection in cooperation with the Indonesian Forum, is being held from July 15-16.
But Nature Alert chief executive Sean Whyte said from London that orangutans continued to be killed at the rate of 2,000-3,000 a year.
“It is time the Ministry of Forestry stopped talking about saving orangutans and got on and did it,” Whyte said.
“Everyone knows the ministry is to blame for the catastrophic population decline of the orangutan, a species protected — in theory — by Indonesian law. If Indonesia will not save the orangutan, what hope is there for other endangered species?”
Whyte also charged that Indonesian officials were wasting donor and aid money on more meetings when 11 young orangutans that could be repatriated to their Indonesian habitats had been left abandoned in Thailand for 17 months.
“Since April 2009, 11 baby orangutans, all victims of the illegal trade, have been abandoned in Thailand by the Ministry of Forestry.
The only reason they remain there is because the ministry does not want them returned and given a second chance in life where they could add to the orangutan population in Indonesia,” he said.
“It is a shameful and callous act of betrayal by the Ministry of Forestry.”
The foreign criticism was echoed locally by Hardi Baktiantoro, founder of Indonesia’s Centre for Protection. He said:
“These meetings achieve nothing. They are only talking shops using donor money and adding to delegates’ carbon footprints, but never saving any orangutans or their forest homes.
“I see the reality every day in Kalimantan, where orangutans are being killed in large numbers and no one is ever prosecuted. Workshops and action plans will achieve nothing as long as the government offers no real protection to orangutans.”
In December 2007, at the climate change conference in Bali, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched the Strategy and Action Plan for National Conservation of Orangutans.
One of its objectives was to stabilise the orangutan population between then and 2017. But Whyte said this week: “It has failed, disastrously. In the three years since, the orangutan population decline has if anything accelerated.”
Yudhoyono said when launching the action plan: “The fate of the orangutan is a subject that goes to the heart of sustainable forests.
To save the orangutan we have to save the forest.”
A new study shows orangutan numbers have declined sharply and it is feared they will be the first great ape species to become extinct if urgent action is not immediately taken.
Serge Wich, a scientist at the Great Ape Trust in Iowa, in the US, said the declines in the orangutan populations in Indonesia and Malaysia since 2004 were mostly because of illegal logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations.
The survey found the orangutan population in Sumatra had dropped nearly 14 percent since 2004 and that on Borneo, shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, by 10 percent.