Published 12 November 2015


Thailand repatriates smuggled orangutans to Indonesia

Bangkok, Thailand, 12th November 2015 – After a lengthy wait in Thailand, 14 smuggled orangutans finally left for home in Indonesia today. 

The orangutans which were rescued from the illegal trade and have been cared for by Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) for the last five years.  Today the 12 orangutans and two offspring born in captivity received a high level send off at the Don Mueang Military Airport. 

The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment General Surasak Karnjanarat and Indonesia’s Ambassador to Thailand Lutfi Rauf were there to see them off on their journey.

Director of Wildlife Conservation at DNP, Teunchai Noochdumrong said each of the transport cages were labelled with a photo of the individual orangutan and displayed information on the gender, weight and microchip number of the animal.

The DNP said DNA analysis showed the orangutans were from Borneo, Indonesia. The 14 are expected to be quarantined in Taman Safari Bogor for a month, before rehabilitation and eventual reintroduction to the wild.

Those responsible for the illegal trade and smuggling of the animals were never identified and no charges were brought in relation to the case.  Thai law currently requires that where the perpetrators or owners cannot be found, such animals must be retained for five years.  The Permanent Secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has previously said that Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act of 1992 will be amended to allow repatriation to occur almost immediately.

“This is not the first repatriation of illegally imported orangutans from Thailand to Indonesia.” said Claire Beastall, TRAFFIC’s Training and Capacity Building Coordinator. 

In 2006, 48 were sent back to Indonesia after they were found at a theme park outside Bangkok, while in 2007 four more orangutans were returned.

“We hope to see greater collaboration between the two countries in their fight against the illegal trade.”

Native to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, orangutans are threatened by the destruction of their forest habitat for agriculture, monoculture plantations, mining and infrastructure which often leads to conflict with local people and provides access to poachers. 

However, illegal trade in the two species of orangutans, the Bornean Orangutan and the Sumatran Orangutan as pets and for exhibition, also poses a serious threat to their survival in the wild.

On 7th November Indonesia busted an orangutan smuggling ring and arrested three people found in possession of one male and two female orangutans, both very young. The traffickers, arrested in the town of Pekanbaru in Riau province admitted to buying the six to nine-month-olds in Aceh in northern Sumatra, news reports said.

Earlier this year, Malaysia repatriated two juvenile orangutans to Sumatra. The pair were seized following investigations into an online ad in Malaysia. In a separate case, one of two baby orangutans smuggled into Kuwait in July 2015 was repatriated to Indonesia in September. Earlier in 2015, Indonesian authorities foiled the smuggling of another baby orangutan, confiscating the animal from a Kuwait-bound flight.