Wildlife and animal rights

Rescue team frees orangutan kept in a cage for nearly two decades

12322607_524070064457843_6657915924421051206_oA team from the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) in Medan, Indonesia, has conducted yet another dramatic rescue – in Kabanjahe, North Sumatra.

The orangutan they have just saved is a 20-year-old male, named Krismon, who was captured as a baby in 1997 and was held in captivity by a local army commander.

The huge primate spent most of his life locked in a small cage in a back yard, being fed mostly on rice.

Locals reported that the commander obtained the orangutan from a villager who had shot the primate’s mother.

The commander reportedly also kept a female infant orangutan in captivity, but she died.

OIC director Panut Hadisiswoyo said Krismon appeared to be in surprisingly good health, given his lengthy incarceration, but there were signs that he had been attached around his neck. “I am still shocked that such a big orangutan was being kept in such a small cage. It is horrifying.”

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The rescue was carried out in collaboration with the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA).

Krismon was tranquilised by an OIC veterinarian and was taken to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) quarantine centre in Batu Mbelin, North Sumatra, where his condition is now being assessed and he will be cared for and rehabilitated.

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It is hoped that Krismon will one day be able to be released back into the wild, but, given his lengthy period in captivity, this may not be possible.

“He has never learnt to make a nest, or to climb high trees to forage, but now he is at the quarantine centre, he may learn quickly, so you never know,” Hadisiswoyo said. “If not, he will be able to go to the new Orangutan Haven being created by the SOCP. It would still be a wonderful life for him compared to what he has suffered so far.”

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Hadisiswoyo and Krismon 

Many orangutans held in illegal captivity in Indonesia are kept by local businessmen or high-ranking government officials and police or army officers.

When the OIC receives information about an orangutan being held in illegal captivity, it can be a lengthy process before the primate is located and can be rescued.

There is great reticence on the part of local authorities – and most of the media – to expose the fact that orangutans are kept on army bases.

There is unlikely to be a prosecution in this case, not least as Krismon’s former owner has died.

“When Krismon was still a baby, the family used to put a nappy on him as if he was a child, and he would eat with them, and go to the fridge and grab food,” Hadisiswoyo said. “When they went on holiday, they would take him with them in the car.

“When we took Krismon away, the family members were all crying. People have a total misconception about what it is to love an orangutan. I tried to explain to them that this is not the way to care for a wild animal.

“There are many people who keep orangutans simply for reasons of prestige.”

The OIC has rescued nearly 100 orangutans since the end of 2012, and 15 already this year, and there are many others still being held in illegal captivity.

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Hadisiswoyo dreams of a time when no more rescues will be carried out, but he knows that day is still far away.

There is a huge demand for the primates from those who want to keep them as pets, and from zoos and safari parks abroad, especially in China. Malaysia is a transit hub for orangutan trafficking.

“There is still very poor law enforcement against those who trade orangutans and keep them illegally,” Hadisiswoyo said. “It is getting easier for people to get into forest areas so poachers can now access orangutans without much difficulty. The primates’ movements are increasingly limited as the forests become increasingly fragmented.

“More and more orangutan habitat is being lost and fragmented and that means local people can become opportunistic poachers.”

Update 20h46, 1/6/2016

13346504_524762867721896_331445579029737086_nA team from the OIC and the Aceh Wildlife Authority (KSDA) conducted another rescue today, confiscating a male baby orangutan who was illegally held captive by a resident of Aceh Tamiang.

The orangutan is estimated to be about one year old. The owner claimed to have found him on the roadside. It is most likely that the orangutan’s mother was killed so that poachers could take her baby.

The baby orangutan is also now in safe hands at the SOCP quarantine centre, where his medical condition is being assessed, and he will be rehabilitated.

Update 1/7/2016

Krismon at the SOCP (photos taken on June 25.)

Krismon also at SOCP

Krismon at SOCP

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