Thailand returns two orangutans to Indonesia

Two young orangutans smuggled into Thailand received a new lease on life last week when Thai wildlife officials returned them to Indonesia, as Thailand sustains its commitment to battle trafficking of wildlife and endangered species.

Wildlife officials transported the two Great Apes, Cola and Giant, from a sanctuary in western Ratchaburi province to Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, where they were placed on a flight to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.

Cola is a ten-year-old female, and Giant is a seven-year-old male. Officials believe that Cola will eventually be able to return to the wild. Giant, however, will have to spend the rest of his life at an orangutan rehabilitation center because doctors were forced to amputate his hands after monkeys attacked him.

“The return of these orangutans will send a very strong message to the criminals responsible for the smuggling of animals across countries that both governments will act decisively,” said Dicky Komar of the Indonesia Embassy in Bangkok.

Orangutans are trafficked from Indonesia and Malaysia to be sold as pets or to circuses or zoos. Thailand has returned 67 orangutans in three previous groups. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said it expects to send more next year.

The red-haired orangutan is one of the four Great Apes that are man’s closest relatives in the animal kingdom. The others are the chimpanzee, gorilla, and gibbon. Orangutans once roamed all of Southeast Asia, but today are found only in parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Destruction of the rainforests, mainly for the expansion of palm oil plantations, is threatening the survival of the orangutans. Scientists have warned that they may be extinct with a few decades unless trends are reversed and the forests preserved.

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