11 seized orangutans repatriated
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 18th December 2020—Indonesia has welcomed home 11 Critically Endangered Sumatran Orangutans Pongo abelii, seized from illegal trade and repatriated from Malaysia (9 animals) and Thailand (2).
In an official statement released by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources Malaysia, seven of the nine animals from Malaysia were seized in three cases from 2018 and 2019 during operations conducted by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN), Marine Police and the Royal Malaysian Customs.
In July 2018, authorities confiscated three orangutans from Cyberjaya, near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Two months later in September 2018, based on a tip-off, Customs intercepted a vessel, laden with more than 400 animals reportedly being smuggled to Thailand for the pet trade. These included crocodiles, parrots, cockatoos and two baby orangutans. In April 2019, Marine Police foiled a smuggling attempt involving nine protected species, including gibbons and two orangutans, one of which was a juvenile. The animals were to be loaded onto a boat at a fishing jetty.
The cases led to the arrest of eight people, two Malaysians and six Indonesians. Those convicted received penalties ranging from a MYR50,000 (USD12,500) fine to four years imprisonment.
The remaining two orangutans from Malaysia were surrendered to PERHILITAN in 2018.
Separately, Thai authorities repatriated two Sumatran Orangutans that were confiscated in an operation on the Thai-Malaysia border in 2017. Indonesian authorities, led by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, co-ordinated this effort with their counterparts in the two countries.
The animals were repatriated as part of obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The species is also prohibited from any trade by Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai law.
“It’s heartening to see the repatriation of Critically Endangered animals seized from illegal trade in the region. We congratulate the authorities for making this a reality, and hope that more countries will follow this lead,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
“We also look forward to strong convictions for other ongoing court cases where orangutans have been smuggled.”
Orangutans are sought after in the illegal pet trade with many confiscations occurring not only within the range countries of Indonesia and Malaysia, but also other countries where they are prized on the black market. In March last year, Indonesian authorities arrested a Russian national who was attempting to smuggle a drugged juvenile orangutan to his home country, along with reptiles he had purchased at an island holiday destination.
The Sumatran Orangutan is among the 235 species currently recognized under the IUCN SSC Asian Species Action Partnership that aims to catalyse action for conservation of Critically Endangered species in region.