Local people living near an orangutan rehabilitation compound in Samboja Lestari, around 45 kilometers north of Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, have reportedly cut down trees in the forest area, threatening the survival of 24 individual orangutans living there.
"They have occupied 300 hectares of our land. They are now using bulldozers to chop down the forest and to open land," Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) programme manager Agus Irianto said on Wednesday.
At the BOSF rehabilitation centre, which covers 1,852 hectares of land, the 24 orangutans are undergoing survival training as part of rehabilitation efforts before their planned release into the wild.
They are among 170 orangutans being treated by the conservation foundation.
According to BOSF management, it took around 15 years for the foundation's volunteers to reforest Samboja Lestari, which was previously in critical condition.
They planted various species of trees that were used to help train the orangutans.
Agus said the suspects, residents of Tani Bhakti village in Samboja district, claimed that the Samboja Lestari forest was previously designated a transmigration area.
The suspects, he said, were transmigrants from East Java who had lived in the area since 1957.
However, the BOSF had bought the land from the local people in stages at around Rp 2 million (S$200) per ha from 2000 to 2005, he added.
"We hope the Kutai Kartanegara Transmigration Agency can help explain the legal status of the land to the local residents," said BOSF executive director Jamartin Sihite.