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Monkey World News

Illegal Orangutans Left in Terrible Conditions While 45 Disappear Completely

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USA -- August 11, 2004 -- The Indonesian Government today demanded the return of at least 70 smuggled baby orangutans that are currently kept at Safari World in Bangkok, Thailand. This request is timely as the Thai government will be hosting the CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) meeting in October 2004. As a signatory of the convention in 1983, Thailand is obligated to return the illegal orangutans to their country of origin - Indonesia. Sadly, all of the requests made by the Indonesian authorities to date have not been answered. Last week an Indonesian delegation travelled to Bangkok for discussions with Thai authorities and to count and view the conditions of the illegal orangutans kept at Safari World. Thai authorities refused to give guarantees that the smuggled apes will be returned to Indonesia. During the inspection of Safari World, both Thai and Indonesian government authorities were shocked to find that 45 young orangutans had disappeared from Safari World since Thai raids on the park in September 2003. No explanation for the disappearance of these endangered apes was provided and the conditions of those kept at the park were disgusting. "The cages that some of the orangutans are kept in at Safari World are so small that they cannot even stand up and many needed urgent medical care," said Dr Willie Smits of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.

Repatriation of all the orangutans is possible through the conservation work of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS, Indonesia), Monkey World - Ape Rescue Centre (Great Britain) and the Pingtung Rescue Centre for Endangered Wild Animals (Taiwan). The illegal trade in orangutans into Thailand was first documented by Monkey World and Pingtung Rescue Centre following a three year investigation and now Monkey World has offered to pay for the return of the orangutans to their Indonesian home as soon as Thai authorities release them. The British and Taiwanese team documented large numbers of orangutans at several zoos and safari parks around Thailand, the worst offender being Safari World, outside of Bangkok. Fourteen years ago Safari World did not have any captive orangutans yet now they are trying to claim ownership of the illegal animals. While government raids followed, no arrests have been made and no orangutans have been returned to Indonesia.

Dr Willie Smits of BOS, and the world's leading orangutan expert, was allowed to view and count the orangutans at Safari World a few months ago. "Almost all the orangutans at Safari World were from Central Kalimantan and could not have possibly come from captive breeding of adult animals as the park would claim. They should all be returned to Indonesia immediately." Monkey World has offered to pay for the repatriation of the orangutans to their natural habitat in the forests of Kalimantan. Jim Cronin, Director of Monkey World said, "There is no reason for delays, the orangutans should, by law, be returned to their native home regardless of court cases, prosecutions or bureaucracy - we will pay for their return immediately."

The orangutans discovered at Safari World represent a significant percentage of the wild population left in the world today. Dr Willie Smits and BOS have undertaken to rehabilitate the stolen apes at various centres in Indonesia. It is hoped that the majority can be returned to the wild, but this is a costly undertaking, the process taking several years and much care. BOS is committed to this rescue and rehabilitation project and is sure that people from around the world will support this project to save these refugees. A fund is being launched to help save the baby orangutans.

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