ENVIRONMENT

Indonesian villagers cut down forest in orangutan sanctuary

A conservation group says nearly a fifth of the forest belonging to an orangutan sanctuary on the Indonesian part of Borneo has been occupied and damaged by people living near the area, threatening efforts to rehabilitate the critically endangered great apes for release into the wild.

Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation spokesman Nico Hermanu says nearly 340 hectares (840 acres) of Samboja Lestari forest in East Kalimantan has been encroached upon. People suspected to be migrants from other parts of Indonesia have occupied the land, cut down trees and planted crops.

Their activities are near a "forest school" home to more than 20 orangutans that is a crucial part of their rehabilitation.

The foundation bought the land for the 1,850-hectare (4,571-acre) sanctuary from locals over several years and restored its forest.