On 19th February 2013, a team from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) successfully confiscated an infant orangutan at Afdeling II of PT. Socfindo plantation, Sidojadi Village, Darul Makmur sub-district of Nagan Raya district in Aceh province, Indonesia. SOCP field staff first heard about the young male infant orangutan shortly after it was captured on January 26th in an area known locally as Suak Puntung, in the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest of the Leuser Ecosystem, within the concession of the palm oil company PT Surya Panen Subur 2 (PT. SPS-2). The infant was found in a very weak condition due to malnutrition and dehydration.
The infant is less than a year old and had been captured by a group of local fisherman. After intimidating and beating the mother who was trapped in a single remaining tree, the fishermen then sold the infant for just IDR100,000 (USD10.40), to a local medical aide working for another nearby palm oil company who kept him as a pet.
The Tripa Peat Swamp Forests, where the infant was captured, have received considerable international media attention in the last 12 months due to some high profile legal cases brought against palm oil plantations operating illegally there. Tripa’s remaining orangutan population is also recognized as a global priority population for conservation by UNEP’s Great Ape Survival partnership (GRASP). Tripa is also part of the world renowned Leuser Ecosystem Conservation Area, in which more than 80% of the remaining Sumatran Orangutans, a critically endangered species, are hanging on.
The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), is a collaborative programme involving numerous organisations and is funded by Australian-based organisation, The Orangutan Project. It is a multifaceted programme engaged in all aspects of Sumatran orangutan conservation including; confiscation, quarantine and reintroduction of illegal pet orangutans, surveys and monitoring of remaining wild populations, research on conservation and behavioural ecology of wild orangutans, habitat conservation and education and awareness.
'Extinction is not impersonal. This is just one of over 6,000 individual orangutan stories that will occur this year, as the insatiable greed of a powerful few drives orangutans to extinction,’ says Leif Cocks, President, The Orangutan Project (TOP).
Tripa is an area of 61,803 hectares on the west coast of the province of Aceh in North Sumatra. Four large-scale palm oil companies covering most of Tripa are destroying the forest, burning the peat and opening canals to install palm-oil plantations.
Tripa hosts unique biodiversity and holds great importance for the local people. It is also by far the largest unprotected carbon stock in Aceh. The total destruction of Tripa’s remaining forest is predicted within less than five years if appropriate action is not implemented quickly.
The Orangutan Project (TOP) needs urgent funding to assist Pan Eco, led by world renowned conservationist, Dr Ian Singleton, continue the critical work involved with the conservation of the Tripa swamps. The extensive list of costs involved includes rescue teams, legal support, equipment items such as cameras, vehicles, transport cages, GPS as well as transport costs and Indonesian staff wages.