A critically endangered Bornean orangutan was brutally killed and eaten by a few palm oil plantation workers in Central Kalimantan after it allegedly strayed onto an Indonesian palm oil plantation, the police and activists said on Thursday.
According to reports, the incident took place at an oil palm concession that is owned by PT Susantri Permai, part of a Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group, in Tumbang Puroh village, Kapuas regency.
The authorities have launched an investigation after several media broadcast stories showing gruesome pictures of the slaughtered ape. Formally, the police have named three male suspects who are believed to be involved in the brutal killing in the Indonesian part of Borneo island. Another seven people are being questioned as witnesses to the crime.
Local police chief Jukiman Situmorang said the orangutan bones and dried meat were found in a cupboard at a plantation workers' camp located in a remote part of the jungle-clad island. The police have detained the workers.
According to Situmorang, the three workers, who were named as suspects, have been accused of "shooting, hacking, chopping, cooking and eating the orangutan" on Jan 27. If convicted of breaking laws that protect the animals, the men could be sentenced to up to five years in jail.
Environmental group the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP) has condemned the brutal killing and urged the police to punish the company that runs the plantation as well as the workers.
The head of COP, Hardi Baktiantoro, criticised the palm oil companies for introducing rules that punish the workers if there is any damage to plants. It is because of those rules, that the workers view the orangutans, who often stray onto plantations accidentally and cause damage, as pests and attack them.
Baktiantoro also added that the authorities should never have given permission for plantation in areas which is prone to orangutans. "Why would they give a permit in an area that is an orangutan habitat?" he said.
The rapid expansion of palm oil plantations on Borneo has been repeatedly blamed for destroying orangutans' natural jungle habitat pushing the endangered species into extinction. The villagers also attack them and they are often targeted by poachers to be sold as pets.
In 2011, two Indonesian plantation workers had admitted to killing at least 20 orangutans and proboscis monkeys for landowners looking to protect their crops.
According to WWF, the habitat of Bornean orangutans has gradually diminished by over 50 per cent in the past 20 years. The total population has fallen by more than 50 per cent over the past 60 years. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the animal as critically endangered species.