Hundreds of orang-utans are either killed or captured every year in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, according to TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, and WWF, the global conservation organization. The TRAFFIC report, launched today to coincide with the Inter-governmental conference of UNESCO's Great Apes Survival Project in Kinshasa (DRC), warns that such a trend will further the species' decline towards extinction.

Based on data collected over a two year period from wildlife markets and private owners, zoological gardens, wildlife rescue centres, reintroduction programmes and the Indonesian Department of Forestry, the report shows that between 200 and 500 Bornean Orang-utans originating from Kalimantan, are traded each year on Kalimantan, Java and Bali alone. The vast majority are very young individuals, captured as pets.

For the majority of orang-utans observed in trade, the report highlights that at least one other has died (usually its mother) – which means that the total numbers killed or captured each year are likely to be far higher . With a total population of orang-utans on Kalimantan estimated to be as low as 40,000, the annual removal of such a high number of orang-utans from the wild could be a death sentence for the population.

According to the report, the trade in orang-utans on Kalimantan has not decreased in the past 15 years. It also finds that although many gibbons and orang-utans have been confiscated by authorities during the last decade in Kalimantan, not a single offender has been prosecuted to date. The average price for an orang-utan on sale in Java is US$400, 2-3 times the original price paid to hunters in Kalimantan.

"This is an alarming finding," said James Compton, Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia. "It clearly shows that there is a large discrepancy between what national conservation laws aim to achieve and what happens on the ground." TRAFFIC and WWF are calling on the Indonesian government for stricter implementation of the legislation on protection of threatened species. Under this law, orang-utans and gibbons are classified as “protected”, which forbids capturing, killing, possessing and trading these species.

"People who have been found in possession of protected wildlife, such as orang-utans should be prosecuted to give a clear signal to other offenders," said Dr. Susan Lieberman, Director, WWF Global Species Programme. "We call on Indonesian authorities to take urgent action, and to do more to make enforcement officers and the public aware that keeping or buying protected animals is a crime, and will not be left unpunished." Besides hunting and trade to satisfy the persistent demand for pets, orang-utans and gibbons in Kalimantan also suffer from the loss of their forest habitat to logging, agriculture and forest fires.