JAKARTA (AFP) – Four Indonesian men have been arrested over the killing of an orangutan shot some 130 times with an air rifle, police said yesterday, in the latest fatal attack on a critically endangered species.
The suspects, farmers from the island of Borneo, admitted killing the animal, saying it ruined their crops at a pineapple and palm oil plantation, according to authorities.
“They meant to shoo away (the orangutan) but their actions instead killed the orangutan,” East Kutai district police chief Teddy Ristiawan said.
The suspects, who were arrested last week, will be charged with killing a protected animal and face up to five years’ jail and a maximum fine of about $7,400.
Mr Ristiawan said a fifth suspect, a 13-year-old boy, was arrested but later released because he was a minor.
Villagers in Borneo’s East Kutai district discovered the male orangutan’s corpse riddled with pellets two weeks ago. Its mutilated body also showed signs of machete wounds.
The gruesome killing came about a week after Borneo police arrested two rubber plantation workers and accused them of shooting an orangutan multiple times and then decapitating it.
The orangutan’s headless body had been found floating in a river on the island, which is shared with Malaysia. The Indonesian portion of Borneo is called Kalimantan.
Bornean and Sumatran orangutans are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Sumatran orangutan population is estimated to be just under 15,000, while about 54,000 orangutans are thought to live in Borneo, according to the IUCN.
The population of orangutans in Borneo has plummeted by more than half since 1999 – nearly 150,000 of the apes have been lost in that time – largely due to chopping down forests for logging, paper, palm oil and mining, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology last week.
Plantation workers and villagers are sometimes known to attack an animal that they see as a pest, while poachers also capture them to sell as pets.