“Critically endangered” are two words we hear often in this country in relation to our fast-dwindling stocks of indigenous wildlife. We hear it of the majestic orangutan, a glorious tree-dwelling creature we share with Malaysia; and we hear it of the Sumatran elephant native to our most westerly island.
There are others on this shameful list, including the Javan rhino, which, we are told, is nearing extinction, with as few as 40 left in the wilds of Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java.
On this island, the Bali tiger is long gone, having been hunted to extinction during the early part of the last century and its habitat wiped out as the human population expanded.
Its cousin the Javan tiger joined it in being extinguished several decades later. The Sumatran tiger, unless something drastic is soon done, is headed that way, too. It is now listed as “critically endangered,” by the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature.
It is reported that three Sumatran elephants are feared to have been poisoned by villagers in Aceh. “We suspect that they died after consuming bars of soap laced with poison we found near the carcasses,” Rabono Wiranata of the environmental group Fakta said.
That such animals are protected under Indonesian law, including the endangered green turtle in Bali, is deplorably largely meaningless because there is no enforcement to speak of. As with the Bali and Sumatran tiger, human activity has resulted in their demise and eventual annihilation. And there appears to be no let-up in habitat-encroachment or hunting – especially of the orangutan, whose young are favourites of so-called pet markets in Jakarta and elsewhere in the country.
Unbridled industrial-scale deforestation in Kalimantan and Sumatra, to make way for valuable oil palm plantations and to fell rainforest trees for the global timber trade, ensures that these glorious creatures do not stand a chance. Government protection of them is a sham.