Orangutans are protected by law in Indonesia and are also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This means that trading orangutans nationally (within Sumatra and Indonesia) or internationally is prohibited. However, despite this, hundreds of orangutans have been captured from the wild for the illegal pet trade over the last two decades. It is estimated, in fact, that more orangutans have been captured for the wild than all the other great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas).
The numbers of orangutans being captured (and therefore lost to the wild) may not sound like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it represents over 1% of the total wild population - this means it is an unsustainable loss and presents a serious threat to the species.
Just a few days ago, colleagues in Sumatra were called to confiscate a baby orangutan being kept as a pet in a village in Aceh province. Though this orangutan is now being cared for by experts at a rehabilitation centre, it would, of course, have been far better if it had never been removed from the wild in the first place.
This is just one of many reasons why tackling the illegal wildlife trade is so important, and why we are so grateful for your donations.
Despite the challenges presented by the COVID19 pandemic, the patrol teams managed to achieve a lot last year. Covering the Leuser and West Toba landscapes, they walked a total of 1,288km to protect 35,667 hectares of rainforest and its inhabitants.
Each patrol normally takes ten days of walking through deep forest, documenting biodiversity, wildlife and topography alongside any signs of threats to wildlife - logged trees, burnt patches of forest, snares or traps. This information is fed back to law enforcement authorities to assist their work in investigating the perpetrators of wildlife crime. In 2020, the patrol team provided data to help prosecutors in seven different cases - an amazing achievement in protecting Sumatra's forests and wild animals.
Thank you for continuing to walk alongside the patrol team as they carry out this challenging work.
Solving the case of a sunbear and a Sumatran tiger
By Lucy Radford | Engagement Manager
The Forest and Wildlife Protection Unit (ForWPU) are currently hard at work to solve two cases of illegal wildlife crime in Sumatra.
Firstly, the team recently began an investigation on an individual suspected of trading protected animals including sunbears (Helarctos malayanus). Along with the head of the Special Crime Unit from the North Sumatra Regional Police, they coordinated a meeting with the individual, posing as prospective buyers of a young sunbear. The bear was on sale for 24,000,000 IDR - £1264 or $1634 at today's exchange rate. Through their discussions, the team were able to ascertain that the sunbear was being kept by a Military Police Officer from the Indonesian Air Force, meaning careful plans now need to be made to confiscate the sunbear. The team hopes to be able to rescue the animal very soon.
Alongside the sunbear investigation, ForWPU are working on an investigation into three people suspected of trading Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris) body parts and skins. In a similar process to the sunbear case, the team arranged to meet one of the suspects at a restaurant to discuss buying a tiger skin. The Special Crime Unit were also in attendance and were able to apprehend the suspect, who is also known to be involved in other illegal wildlife trade networks. They are now gathering more evidence (having confiscated the tiger skin) and beginning legal proceedings against all the people involved.
As you can tell, a lot of time and funds go into tracing the illegal willdife trade in Sumatra. Every investigation is a piece of the bigger picture - stopping the illegal trade altogether - and we are so grateful for your support.
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