Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Orangutans WILL go home!

Subject: RE: Press release - Orangutans will go home!

53 of 61 smuggled orangutans will be sent home soon

April 23, 2006

On Saturday the 22nd of April 2006, officials from Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants announced their decision to allow 53 smuggled orangutans to go back home to the forests of Indonesia. The decision was made during a meeting between Thai and Indonesian officials in Bangkok. A large group of NGO's worldwide campaigned hard to have the Apes repatriated after two and a half years being kept in sub-standard conditions at Safari World, Bangkok and wildlife breeding centers in Thailand. The pressure of the campaign, which was stepped up only six months ago, finally bears fruit.

Although the Thai authorities still want to check DNA of all the orangutans to verify that the animals originate from the Indonesian part of Borneo, scientists and experts believe all but two are from this area. Two of the orangutans might be Sumatran orangutans and therefore also Indonesian. The Indonesian authorities have agreed to allow the second DNA test so long as it does not delay the repatriation process. The animals will be returned to Indonesia before the results of the DNA check are available. Two years ago, DNA tests, financed by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) in cooperation with the Thai Forestry Police, were conducted to prove that these same orangutans were not born of the legal orangutan stock at the zoo.

The 53 orangutans will all be moved to the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. It is expected that the first half of the orangutans will be shipped back to Indonesia within the next eight weeks; a second group should follow within four weeks after the first. Due to the level of care required for each individual animal, transporting too large a group at one time will be too stressful for the animals.

Veterinary and orangutan experts from BOSF and the Indonesian government will soon begin a thorough health assessment to check all the orangutans for zoonotic diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis, as well as the presence of parasites, bacteria and fungi. Local Thai universities such as Chulalongkorn and/or Mahidol might be asked for assistance with this process. If animals are not 100% healthy, the stress of transportation might be detrimental and, in some cases, fatal. The healthiest ones will be returned with the first lot.

At Nyaru Menteng, all facilities are ready to welcome the orangutans back home; a quarantine area and new living quarters have all been constructed in the past two years awaiting the return of these orangutans.

The fate of eight additional orangutans held by the Thai authorities confiscated from Lopburi zoo and two slaughterhouses in 2003 is not yet known.

For more information and pictures:

Edwin Wiek
Monitoring unit for cross-border illegal wildlife trade
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation
Wildlife Friends of Thailand (www.wfft.org)
Tel +6690600906 (Thailand 0906-00906)

Dr. Willie Smits
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation / Gibbon Foundation

Lone Droscher Nielsen
Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
Tel: +62-8125154702 (Indonesia 081-25154702)

All photographs Copyright Nick Lyon & Evie Wright
The Orangutan Film Protection Project
Tel: +44 (0)1823 451 790