A lack of adequate law enforcement against the illegal trade in Indonesian apes threatens the survival of orangutans and gibbons on the island of Sumatra, finds a new study released today by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.
Under Indonesia's national legislation, penalties for illegally possessing orangutans include a fine of up to IDR100,000.000 (US$9000) and imprisonment for up to five years.
But owners of the big reddish-brown apes do not face any legal consequences TRAFFIC found in its first study of the Indonesian ape trade.
An estimated 2,000 orangutans have been confiscated or turned in by private owners in Indonesia in the last 30 years but no more than a handful of people have ever been successfully prosecuted.
"Confiscating these animals without prosecuting the owners is futile," said Chris Shepherd, acting director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia from his office in Malaysia.
"There is no deterrent for those committing these crimes, if they go unpunished," he said. "Indonesia has adequate laws, but without serious penalties, this illegal trade will continue, and these species will continue to spiral towards extinction."
The report also documents the 148 Sumatran gibbons and siamangs and 26 Sumatran orangutans kept in Indonesian zoos.
In July 2007, the Supreme Court of Indonesia hosted the country first national judiciary workshop on wildlife crime and prosecution as part of a government commitment to step up its fight against organized poaching and trafficking of wild animals and plants.
Habitat loss due to deforestation, logging, land conversion, encroachment, and forest fires also threatens the survival of the island's remaining wildlife.