16th May 2009
The population of orangutans in Indonesia's Kutai National Park has plunged by 90 percent in the past five years due to large-scale deforestation promoted by local authorities, reports The Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP), an Indonesian environmental group.
According to park officials interviewed by COP, the population of morio orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio) declined from 600 in 2004 to 30-60 this year. COP attributes the drop to state-sponsored colonization of the Kutai, which has led to hunting and forest clearing.
"The Kutai National Park has been changing into a city, complete with an airport, gas stations, marketplace, BTS towers, a bus terminal, and prostitution complex. Only time will tell, whether orangutans can survive in the area," said Yon Thayrun, Habitat Campaign Manager for COP.
"The root of the problem with the Kutai National Park is a breach of duty committed by officials to get political and financial advantages. They gave away land spaces to people to win their votes in the local administration elections. They also mobilize people to seize the national park area. Their strategy to win people's hearts by giving away the land seemed successful."
"The best solution for the Kutai National Park is by bringing the corrupt officials and politicians to justice and sending them to prison. This will force their supporters to leave the looted land and stop their illegal activities."
Kutai—located in Indonesia's East Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo—has long suffered from encroachment, illegal logging, forest fires, and "re-zoning" by officials to allow for coal mining and other activities. The park is home to 11 species of primate and more than 300 species of birds. It is a popular destination for ecotourists.
The population of orangutans in Borneo is uncertain, but most scientists estimate there are fewer than 50,000 individuals. Large-scale forest loss due to logging, conversion for oil palm, and fires have replaced the pet trade as the leading threats to the orangutan.