July 21, 2010 / 11:26 AM / 10 years ago

Indonesia survey finds many unaware orangutan protected

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A quarter of villagers living near orangutans in Indonesia’s Kalimantan province are not aware the rare primates are protected and say orangutans have been killed in their village, said a new survey released on Wednesday. Only a handful of orangutans are left in the wild, mostly in forests on Indonesian provinces of Sumatra and Kalimantan, where activists say logging and palm oil expansion have driven the primates close to extinction.

However, many living close to remaining orangutan communities do not know it is against Indonesian law to harm them, according to a survey of Kalimantan villagers conducted by the Indonesian Primates Association and The Nature Conservancy.

“More than a quarter of respondents said that they were not aware that the orangutan is categorized as a protected species by the Indonesian government and more than 50 percent of respondents said that the orangutan is not a protected species,” said a statement released by The Nature Conservancy.

The survey collected responses from 6,872 people in 725 villages near suspected orangutan communities in western, central and eastern Kalimantan.

It found 24.8 percent of respondents knew of orangutans being killed in or near their villages, with most in Central Kalimantan saying the animals were killed for the meat.

“Other respondents claimed that they killed the animal for no specific reason. A small number of other reasons for killing orangutans are for medicine, hunting, orangutan trade and non-intentional reasons” such as being caught in wild boar traps, the statement said.

Damayanti Buchori, conservation director at The Nature Conservancy, said the survey results showed a need for “translating the national policies into a local context, (so) the community will understand and support orangutan conservation efforts in Indonesia”.

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