JAKARTA, Indonesia – A critically endangered Sumatran orangutan was rescued from an isolated forest area in western Indonesia where palm oil companies have been illegally destroying the environment, a conservation group said Monday.
The adult male orangutan, named Seuneam, had been trapped for several days in an area surrounded by palm oil plantations and was isolated from the rest of the surviving orangutan population in Tripa swamp in the Nagan Raya district. It was found and safely evacuated over the weekend, the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program said.
The Tripa swamp was home to around 3,000 orangutans in the 1990s but now has only about 200. Still, the population is the densest in the world with about eight per square kilometer (20 per square mile), the group said.
Tripa is a legally protected area, but several palm oil companies are under investigation for breaking the law, and the permit for one plantation has been canceled, it said.
"We are always happy to see a successful rescue take place, but these activities are expensive, logistically challenging and also dangerous, for both staff and the orangutans themselves," Ian Singleton of the group said. "It's not the orangutans that should be leaving this area, it is the palm oil companies who are breaking the law."
There are an estimated 6,600 Sumatran orangutans remaining in the wild.