One part of the illegal wildlife trade which can particularly affect orangutans is the pet trade. Orangutans are extremely endearing and many people don't realise why keeping them as pets is damaging for the individual orangutans' welfare and the species' conservation.
Unlike dogs and cats, which have lived alongside humans for many centuries, primates like orangutans are not (and cannot be) domesticated, so they suffer extreme stress when living with humans. This can manifest itself as biting themselves or the people they live with, pulling out their own hair, developing repetitive behaviours such as rocking, and becoming destructive in general.
There is also a huge risk of disease transmission between humans and primates, as we are genetically very closely related. Coughs, colds, flu, coronavirus and even tuberculosis or hepatitis can easily spread when primates are kept in the home, presenting a serious risk to people as well as animals.
Luckily, there are many people, including the wildlife crime team you help support, working to spread awareness about these risks and take legal action against people selling orangutans and other primates into the pet trade.
One of the many things the patrol team looks out for during their patrols is the presence of snares in the forest. There are various types of snares, but the steel wire slings shown in the photos are the type most commonly found by the team. On average, the team encounters eight snares each month (based on data analysis from 2021), meaning their presence in the forest and ability to dismantle the snares is saving around eight animals each month. Though the snares are usually set by people hoping to catch deer or pigs, they can, of course, also catch other animals of a similar size. This is particularly worrying in areas where rare species like tigers are moving around on the forest floor.
Thank you for continuing to support this vital, life-saving work.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say. With that in mind, here are some photos of just a few of the wild species you're helping by supporting our colleagues to tackle wildlife crime in Sumatra.
Your donations are helping birds, from tiny songbirds to hornbills and eagles; they are helping mammals from orangutans and macaques to lorises and sun bears; and they are helping plant life by preventing illegal logging and ensuring the diversity of animals in the rainforest is high and seed dispersal can continue.
Thank you for everything you are doing for Sumatra’s wild animals and plants.
Sumatran elephants, like Sumatran orangutans, are Critically Endangered. They were given this status in 2012 after losing half their population in just ten years.
Similarly to orangutans, the elephants are threatened by habitat loss - these large-bodied mammals need a lot of space and many trees and plants to survive in the wild. However, for elephants, poaching is also a threat, with a recent court case seeing 11 people jailed for their role in killing elephants in Sumatra's Aceh province to harvest their tusks for the illegal wildlife trade.
With an estimated 2,400-2,800 individuals left in the wild, tackling wildlife crime is vital for Sumatran elephants. This encompasses not only tackling the direct crime against them (poaching for their tusks), but also things like traps and snares which, despite being set for deer and wild pigs, can also harm elephants which share their habitat.
This, combined with habitat restoration, is key to the elephants' survival. Thank you for helping to tackle wildlife crime in Sumatra.
Have you heard of pangolins? Sometimes known as scaly anteaters, these reptilian-looking mammals are found in Asia and Africa and are unfortunately often hunted and trafficked for the keratin scales which cover their bodies.
The Sunda pangolin species is found in Sumatra and, like all the other species of pangolin, is nocturnal and feeds on ants and termites. Most pangolins captured from the wild, no matter where they are found, end up in China and Vietnam, where their scales are used as an ingredient in traditional medicine.
To prevent the continuing catastrophic decline in pangolins in the wild, it is vital that conservationists and law enforcement agencies gather information about trafficking routes and the people involved in this wildlife crime. Our team in Sumatra recently collaborated with local authorities to seize two suspects and the evidence of their involvement in trafficking pangolins - nine kilograms of scales.
Tragically, it is too late to save the pangolins these scales came from, but by gaining information from the suspects and continuing to keep a close eye on potential trafficking hotspots, our team can be part of the ongoing effort to keep pangolins safe in the wild.
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