Mother orangutans on the Indonesian island of Sumatra are being murdered so their babies can be sold as illegal pets to the rich and powerful.
Although it is illegal in Indonesia to keep an orangutan as a pet, there are some who keep them in cages at their homes as a ‘status symbol’.
There have so far been no prosecutions of those who keep orangutans as pets, with campaigners stating this is due to keepers often being ‘people of power’.
Orangutans in the Indonesian Leuser rainforest are said to be increasingly vulnerable due to habitat destruction over the last two decades, with infrastructure projects, palm oil and farmland destroying the forest.
This devastation has brought them in closer proximity to humans, with black market traders taking advantage of this by slaughtering orangutan mothers to steal their babies.
Rescue charities in Sumatra are now working to rescue these stolen babies, and to hold those who keep them as pets to account.
New footage from the BBC tells the story of Bom Bom, a young orangutan who was sold on the black market after his mother was murdered.
Orangutans can only naturally be found in the rain forests of the Borneo and Sumatra of Indonesia. They are an endangered species due to habitat loss and poaching.#39canimals pic.twitter.com/gFqxpd7Vwk
— regina (@reginaxtambunan) April 25, 2019
Bom Bom’s keepers – a police officer and his wife – kept him in a cage for three years, allowing him out only on weekends. The footage shows Bom Bom being taken from his keepers to a rehabilitation center where he will be prepared for life as a wild orangutan.
The police officer’s wife shows visible distress as Bom Bom is taken away, describing the wild animal as her ‘child’. Bom Bom too is initially frightened when he is taken away, but is later seen looking more relaxed, extending his paw towards conservationists.
Dr Ian Singleton, from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, told the BBC:
A mother orangutan will carry an infant around for almost 24 hours a day for several years so there’s no way she is going to voluntarily hand over that infant or allow any one to take it unless she’s killed.
She’s always going to defend that infant with her life and unfortunately that’s what usually happens. All the orangutans that are here [at the rehabilitation centre]…their mothers [were] almost certainly killed.
Please help us care for more than 100 orphaned orangutans at our rescue centre in West Borneo. Adopt an orphaned orangutan this Mother’s Day to give these babies all the love they so desperately deserve: https://t.co/C4xK1cJoCM#MothersDay #orangutan #rainforest #pet pic.twitter.com/Q9ZGmAfSLz
— IAR (Animal Rescue) (@IAR_updates) April 26, 2019
According to estimations given by Save The Orangutan, an estimated 6,000 great apes are captured or slaughtered annually due to those who sell them as pets on the black market.
Up to 70 per cent of these apes are said to be orangutans.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.