JAKARTA — A second orangutan has been found killed in Indonesian Borneo in as many months, this time shot more than 100 times with a pellet gun, a conservation group has reported.
An X-ray on the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) that died in East Kalimantan province on Feb. 6 revealed 130 pellets in its body. Authorities carrying out an autopsy managed to recover 48 of them, according to a statement from the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP), a conservation NGO. Most of the pellets were located in the animal’s head; it had also been shot multiple times in the arms, legs and torso.
The total number of pellets found is “the most ever in the history of human-and-orangutan conflicts in Indonesia,” said Ramadhani, habitat protection manager at the COP.
The critically endangered ape was found barely alive on Feb. 5 by officials from the Kutai National Park Agency, following a report of a badly injured orangutan stuck in a tree. It died of its extensive injuries the following day.
The autopsy also revealed palm fruit kernels in the orangutan’s colon, and pineapple remnants in its stomach, suggesting it had been feeding in crop farms.
“Our team is investigating the area where the orangutan was found,” Ramadhani said.
Plantation operators in regions of Borneo and Sumatra inhabited by orangutans often consider the animal a pest because it is known to eat crops such as palm fruit. A 2005 study by the conservation NGO Friends of the Earth found that one such company in Central Kalimantan province would pay local people 150,000 rupiah (about $10) for every orangutan killed.
Some 34,400 square kilometers (13,300 square miles) of land in East Kalimantan is earmarked for oil palm plantations; orangutan used to inhabit in almost a tenth of that area, according to 2017 data from Orangutan Indonesia Forum (Forina), a conservation NGO.
Orangutan population in the province is estimated just over 2,900 individuals, more than 60 percent of which inhabit the Kutai National Park, according data from the environment ministry.
The use of air guns, which can be purchased without having to obtain a license and which fire pellets similar to those recovered from the dead orangutan, is also common among farmers and plantation workers in these regions to hunt down animals they see as pests.
“We are working with the police and the environment ministry to solve this case,” Ramadhani said. “We hope the authorities can solve this case like the recent incident in Central Kalimantan province.”
In that earlier incident, an orangutan was found decapitated and shot more than a dozen times with a pellet gun in a river in Central Kalimantan in mid-January. Police late last month arrested two rubber farmers in connection with the killing of the protected species. In that case, a pellet gun believed to have been used in the killing was seized as evidence.
The Bornean orangutan population is listed by the IUCN as “Critically Endangered,” or close to vanishing in the wild. The main threats to the species’ survival are the loss of habitat, as forests across Borneo are razed to make way for monoculture plantations and mines, and poaching for the illegal pet trade.
Orangutans are ostensibly protected by law, but lax enforcement means few perpetrators ever face justice for killing or trading in these great apes. Under Indonesia’s wildlife conservation law, maximum prison sentences of five years and fines of up to 100 million rupiah ($7,000) can be imposed on anyone convicted of killing, trading, keeping or transporting protected species.
Banner image: An adult male Bornean orangutan showing his food. Photo by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.