Baby Orangutan Saved From Wildlife Black Market

A Sumatran wildlife trafficker who used social media to make sales faces prison time.
This baby orangutan was taken from a wildlife trafficker in February. (Photo: WCS Wildlife Crimes Unit)
Apr 16, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

A man who tried to sell a baby orangutan is under arrest by Indonesian authorities. It is illegal in Indonesia to capture orangutans or own them as pets.

Law enforcement officials stopped the illegal wildlife trader, identified only as “VHN,” as he tried to sell the orangutan in February, according to a statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society. The animal was between six and 12 months old.

Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, mainly because their tropical forest habitat is being razed for agriculture and palm oil plantations or logged for timber.

This week’s arrest is the next step toward prosecuting VHN, “a top player in the online trader network in Medan,” the capital of North Sumatra, according to WCS.

VHN has confessed to receiving animals and animal parts from “local hunters and collectors in Aceh and North Sumatra, as well as having a trafficking network in Java,” said WCS.

The shadowy network supplied VHN with illegal animal parts—including hornbill beaks and tiger skins and fangs—and live wild animals, including orangutans, golden cats, great slow lorises, Javan gibbons, siamang (another species of gibbon, which is a type of ape), hornbills, young crocodiles, and hedgehogs.

He used Facebook and BlackBerry messages to conduct business.

If convicted, VHN faces up to five years in prison and a fine equivalent to $7,600. The WCS wildlife crimes unit has been assisting the state prosecutor of North Sumatra on the case.

After years of criticism by conservationists for its lax enforcement of laws protecting wild animals and lands, Indonesia is intensifying its efforts to stop wildlife crimes. Prosecutions for trading in orangutans have ticked upward in recent years.

In 2014, a national law banned fishing and export of threatened manta rays in Indonesia. Arrests were made under the law last summer, and an illegal trader in manta ray parts was recently sentenced to 16 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.