Activists call for halt in orangutan skull trade

Jakarta Globe: September 07, 2011

An animal rights group is urging the government to be more proactive in putting a halt to the illegal trade in orangutan skulls.

"The trade in illegal orangutan skulls still continues in souvenir shops in Pontianak, West Kalimantan; Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan; and Balikpapan, East Kalimantan," said Hardi Baktiantoro, director of the Center for Orangutan Protection.

According to Hardi, orangutan skulls could fetch between Rp 500,000 and Rp 2 million [$60 and $235] each.

The skulls, he said, were obtained from villagers living near palm oil plantations and forest preserves.

"Orangutans that are trapped in the fragmented forests or in the forests for conservation areas easily get shot. And after a month, the hunter will be back to the area and take the skulls," Hardi said.

In August, the center discovered four orangutan skulls at a palm oil plantation in Central Kalimantan. The NGO said it also found an orangutan's corpse buried at another plantation in East Kalimantan.

"This trading could be completely stopped if the souvenir traders who could be convicted of selling the orangutan skulls were arrested. Therefore, there would be no more people buying and ordering the orangutan skulls from the communities or the oil palm workers," Hardi said.

Hardi urged the Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) of the Ministry of Forestry to act firmly by enforcing the law against shops that sell bones and other parts of endangered species.

He also said that palm oil companies should bear the burden of providing protection for any orangutans or other endangered species living on their concessions, and aid the BKSDA in prosecuting workers believed guilty of killing endangered animals.