Foraging orangutans destroy village farms

Foraging orangutans destroy village farms
An orang utan named Sandra from a Buenos Aires zoo was given the right to leave the zoo and live in more desirable conditions.

Scores of orangutans have reportedly invaded human settlements and destroyed crops around the Mount Leuser National Park located in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces as their habitats in protected forests have been damaged by deforestation.

Residents claimed they were scared of the wild orangutans, which have had caused severe damage to their crops.

A resident in Ujung Padang village, South Aceh regency, Budin, 45, said the orangutans came from the Mount Leuser National Park.

Budin added they ventured out of the national park because their habitats had been damaged by the illegal loggers.

"Every day a number of orangutans roam the village. Their presence has caused fear among villagers due to their growing numbers, especially since the widespread illegal logging in the Mount Leuser National Park," Budin told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said the orangutans first entered their village in 2005, adding their numbers had now reached dozens.

Budin claimed many of them had been shot and killed by residents, but despite this, the presence of the protected animals had not diminished but was on the rise.

"Residents are confused how to overcome the presence of these great apes in the village," said Budin, who claimed to have requested help from relevant agencies.

Meanwhile, Orangutan Information Center (OIC) director Panut Hadisiwoyo said, at the request of residents, the Orangutan Rescue Team had been able to relocate a mother orangutan and its six-month-old baby from Ujung Padang village to Bakongan district in South Aceh regency.

Panut said they returned both orangutans to their habitat in the Mount Leuser National Park on Jan. 20.

He said the team, made up of members of the Sumatran Orangutan Preservation Foundation (YOSL) and OIC, the Mount Leuser National Park Center and the Aceh chapter of the Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA), had returned orangutans on three occasions.

"We have returned five orangutans to their habitat in the Mount Leuser National Park since August 2014. They are located in a settlement 4 kilometers from the Mount Leuser National Park," Panut told the Post on Wednesday.

Panut reported that before the rescue team was available, residents drove the orangutans away using air rifles, sometimes killing them. He added residents had no other way to drive them out of the villages.

According to Panut, the orangutans currently in the village were victims of deforestation in the Leuser ecosystem area.

He said populations of protected animals like orangutans, tigers and elephants in the Mount Leuser National Park was becoming critical because of lax protection of their habitat and the subsequent loss of their homes.

"The current population of orangutans in the Leuser ecosystem area is around 6,600, compared to 7,500 10 years ago," said Panut, who expressed concern that the number of protected animals would drop further, along with widespread deforestation in the Leuser area.

The central government made the Leuser area a national park in 1980 and UNESCO named it a Biosphere Reserve in 1981.

The park is reportedly the only place in the world where orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses still live together.

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