Smuggled orangutans rescued

The Straits Times: 30 June 2009

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIAN wildlife authorities have rescued three baby orangutans believed to have been smuggled into the country, in raids on a zoo and an ostrich breeder, a report said on Tuesday.

The three young apes were among a smuggled group of five, and a search is under way for the remaining two, Department of Wildlife and National Parks deputy chief Misliah Mohamad Basir told the Star newspaper.

One of the orangutans was discovered in a raid on the ostrich breeder in central Selangor state, who then revealed that the other two were being kept at the Taiping Zoo in Malaysia's north.

'All orangutans at the zoo are microchipped but these specimens were without microchips, hence we are able to ascertain that they are of dubious origin,' Mr Misliah reportedly said.

Local laws require a special permit to keep orangutans - native to Malaysia's eastern states on Borneo island - which are under threat of extinction because of poaching and habitat destruction.

The report said that DNA samples of the rescued apes were taken to determine their origin. They are being housed at a shelter and are said to be healthy.

The government department and zoo officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Wildlife officials have said that trafficking of wildlife has hit alarming levels in Malaysia.

Experts say there are about 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 80 percent of them in neighbouring Indonesia and the rest in Malaysian's eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak. -- AFP