At Samboja Lestari we are working with orangutans and sun bears, that are kept here because they need help after humans had caused them harm in various ways. The main harm are the destruction of their habitat, the rainforest, and the killing and capturing for the pet trade. Both issues are being addressed but they are still ongoing on a large scale and the western world is unfortunately playing a part in it.
The land around our rehabilitation center had been destroyed as well, and was carefully reforested in the last 15 years. Beautiful and invaluable rainforest is being destroyed in Indonesia at a rate of 3 football fields per hour! This is most obvious on aerial pictures, but you already get an impression when driving through the villages and see houses, streets and fields creeping further and further into the forest. In the last 20 years around 90% of the apes home was destroyed.
The main drivers here are land conversion to farm land, in particular palm oil trees, coupled with illegal logging to sell the valuable wood and burning of the forest. Mining is another driver for the destruction. Most people here unfortunately do not understand the real value of the forest. They are poor and are aiming for short term profit. Other people are exploiting this for profits of companies that are ignorant of their social responsibility. We can try and do our share by avoiding products with palm oil and rainforests wood and by putting pressure on international companies to replace unsustainably sourced products.
The pet market
For every orangutan baby that is sold as a pet, the mother was killed (she will fight for her life before giving up her baby) and at least one other baby has died of injuries or illness before it even reached the market.
We met one of the victims yesterday: Choki was rescued just a few months ago in a very bad state and is recovering in the vet hospital here at the project at the moment. You can read his story so far here. We are also taking care of Coporal who’s arms had to be amputated after he was electrocuted on a power line. He is a peaceful orangutan, very skillful with his feet and mouth – but he will never be able to independently live in his forest again.
You immediately fall in love when you see a small baby orangutan and might think this would be great to cuddle and bring home as a pet. Unfortunately some people do not think further than this. It is certain that you cannot provide an adequate home for this animal as they spent solitary lifes in large areas of rainforest. It will also quickly grow, be stronger than you and it will require an amazing amount of food every day. This highly intelligent being will be a prisoner with a life sentence in a pretty bad jail.
If you have seen films showing orangutans in the wild you will know immediately that any other way of life will make these animals suffer. You can see the joy in them when they are majestically swinging between trees, building a nest of leaves to rest in or exploring an old tree trunk for tasty termites. Contrast that to an orangutan sitting in a cage 24 hours every day, if it’s here or in some zoo. If you come across a captive orangutan on your travels, let an animal rescue organization know (unfortunately police officials are often corrupt). If you see animals in a zoo that do not get adequate enclosures, let the zoo know that you do not like it. Even these small things could make the life of one of our close relatives better.