A 50-year-old male orangutan has died from 22 gunshot wounds in Mount Leuser National Park (TNGL) area, Langkat regency, North Sumatra, after being caught eating durian.
TNGL officers took the animal to the orangutan quarantine center in Sibolangit, Deli Serdang regency, North Sumatra, for medical treatment, but it died on Thursday after several hours of treatment administered by the veterinary team of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP).
SOCP director Ian Singleton said that the orangutan was brought to the quarantine center on Wednesday night in a critical condition. The following morning the veterinary team anesthetized it, gave it medication and cleaned its gunshot wounds.
“The X-ray result showed that there were 22 air rifle bullets spread throughout the orangutan’s body, one of which destroyed its right eye,” Singleton told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
He said that apart from the gunshot wounds the animal had also suffered from fractures and a large wound on its left shoulder. In such a condition, he added, it was difficult for the orangutan to survive as it had also suffered from severe infections, with worms found in the wounds all over its body.
“Finally, despite the team’s hard work trying to save him, he died at around 6 p.m. yesterday,” Singleton said.
He said that cases of orangutans being shot by illegal hunters occurred frequently, but this was the first time in which an orangutan had been shot with so many bullets and in such a violent manner.
The most recent shooting case involved less than 20 bullets.
“This is really tragic. Its body and even its eyes are full of gunshot wounds,” said Singleton, predicting that the orangutan could have been shot a week before it was found, considering the watery wounds, especially in its eyes.
He said that shooting orangutans was a crime that carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of Rp 100 million (US$7,142) according to Law No 5/1990 on conservation.
Head of the TNGL center, Andi Basrul, said that many of the orangutans in the national park had been entering people’s plantations looking for food as big trees in the forests had been illegally logged and turned into oil palm plantations.
Some residents consider the mammal to be a pest and therefore hunt them.
“Many orangutans have been shot before, but it is only this time that one has died so tragically, with so many gunshot wounds,” Andi said at his office on Friday.
Andi said he suspected that the dead orangutan was one that had been hunted by locals over the last month, because it frequently ate from durian trees belonging to people in the area.
According to Andi, TNGL officers had long tried to save the orangutan, but as it was a wild animal and liked to climb tall trees, they could not catch it.
“A week ago we tried to save it. But, when we tried to catch it, it climbed up to the top of a tall tree,” Andi said.
It was only on Wednesday, he said, that they succeeded in catching the orangutan after waiting for a week for it to climb down from a tree. It was caught in the TNGL area in Bukit Lawang, Langkat regency, North Sumatra.
“Its physical condition was very week when we handed it over to the orangutan quarantine center in Sibolangit for medical treatment,” Andi said.
This orangutan dies after being shot 22 times. (Photo: OIC)