YOGYAKARTA - The Center for Orangutan Protection (COP), an NGO advocating for an end to cruelty against orangutans, has urged the Indonesian government to take tough measures against the perpetrators of crimes against orangutans in tropical forests in Kalimantan and Sumatra.
The COP further says it will hold a string of public campaigns to push the government into realizing its commitment to stopping crimes against orangutans.
"All this time, the perpetrators of crimes against orangutans have been sentenced to only between eight and 10 months," COP Java and Sumatra area manager Daniek Hendarto told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
He said without tough legal measures, all efforts conducted by NGOs and other civil society groups to conserve orangutans would be in vain. Plantation owners suspected of having masterminded cruel acts against orangutans have never been prosecuted, he claimed.
"Law enforcement is the key to orangutan conservation. In Indonesia, however, there is a common perception that law can be enforced only if there is strong pressure from the public. Therefore, the COP will continue to gather public support to save orangutans," said Daniek.
Among public campaigns conducted by the COP is an art exhibition entitled "Art for Orangutan" jointly held with the Gigi Nyala Community at the Jogja National Museum in Yogyakarta from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. The exhibition involves 90 Yogyakarta artists who have created various art works, such as paintings and statues, which are all themed on orangutans.
"Orangutans are on the brink of extinction and the major causes are forest conversion into plantations and mines, excessive hunting and the illegal trade in orangutans," said Daniek.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) data reveals that the number of Sumatran orangutans amounted to only 6,500 in 2008. Meanwhile according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) data, there were only 55,000 Kalimantan orangutans in 2005.
"The figures are likely to be far lower now due to ongoing conversion of forests, the natural habitat of orangutans," said Daniek.
He said in 2011, the COP rescued 1,200 baby orangutans but for each baby orangutan rescued, between two and 10 orangutans were killed.
COP monitoring activities have revealed that the illegal trade in orangutans has continued to occur. In their natural habitat in Sumatra or Kalimantan, an orangutan sells for Rp 2.5 million (US$196) each but the price can increase to Rp 100 million in Java.
"Most of their buyers are rich people or those who hold an important position in which they should be aware that raising an orangutan is prohibited by the Conservation and Natural Resources Law," said Daniek.