Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – The North Sumatra Police and the Natural Resources Conservation Agency have arrested five people and foiled the illegal sale of an endangered orangutan in Deli Serdang.
The suspects, aged 17 to 20 – including a female teenager, were arrested during a transaction in Cemara Asri residential complex in Percut Sei Tuan. All of them are from Binjai city.
"The four-month-old orangutan was priced at Rp 23 million [US$1,583]," North Sumatra Police spokesperson Hadi Wahyudi said on Friday.
Hadi said the arrest was part of an investigation by the North Sumatra Cyber Crime Special Unit into orangutan sales via social media.
According to the suspects, the orangutan infant was from a forest in East Aceh regency, Aceh.
Panut Hadisiswoyo of the Medan-based Orangutan Information Center (OIC) said there was still demand for orangutan infants as pets in the local market,
"The market price for these infants is from Rp 10 million to 25 million," Panut told The Jakarta Post separately on Friday.
In order to get the infants, hunters often kill their mothers. The OIC recorded that two adult orangutans have been killed this year.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List recognizes Sumatran orangutans as "critically endangered", with only around 13,400 individuals left, according to the OIC.
In January, the Environment and Forestry Ministry inaugurated a rescue center that will house orangutans rescued from attempted wildlife smuggling, in Langkat regency, North Sumatra.
Converted from an old oil palm plantation, the 10-hectare Sumatran Rescue Alliance (SRA) was established as part of a collaboration between North Sumatra and Aceh provinces' Natural Resources Conservation Center as well as the OIC.
At the time of the opening, the center hosted two orangutans, as well as four agile gibbons, one lar gibbon, 14 siamangs and one sun bear – all protected species.