Indonesian authorities raided a wildlife trade operation on the island of Borneo last Monday. What they found was a 6-month-old orangutan, and three suspects trying to sell the primate infant to the pet trade.

The wildlife traffickers were arrested with help from the WCS’s Wildlife Crime Unit, the Indonesian Department of Forestry, Directorate-General for Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA), and the Anti-Wildlife Crime Forum. 

The world’s remaining wild orangutans live only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Already facing major habitat destruction threats, these endangered, red-headed great apes also risk capture for sale as pets or to private zoo collections. Dealers prefer young orangutans. During their capture, their mothers often die trying to protect them.

"The illegal wildlife trade is a massive threat in Indonesia, but one that can be addressed with a strong government commitment,” said Noviar Andayani, director of WCS-Indonesia. “This case, and those over recent years, demonstrates what is possible. Orangutans remain under threat in Indonesia, and stopping the illegal trade must be part of a plan to ensure their survival.”

In the last two years, authorities have made more than 20 arrests for illegal possession or trade in protected wildlife, including endangered Sumatran tigers and pangolins, a type of anteater. WCS created the Wildlife Crime Unit in 2003. The Unit provides data and technical advice to law enforcement agencies for their investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes.

Unfortunately, illegal markets within Indonesia do not only include orangutans. Birds, bats, turtles, snakes, sharks, pangolins, rodents, and coral are all frequently traded for either food, medicines, skins, biomedical research, souvenirs, or as pets. Populations of rhinos, elephants, tigers, and bears also suffer from these crimes.

“The illegal trade in wildlife is a global problem that is affecting wildlife around the world,” said Colin Poole, director of WCS-Asia. “Enforcement actions like these are extremely important in helping the conservation community turn the tide for this global issue.”

The baby orangutan rescued during the raid is now being cared for at the International Animal Rescue facility in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.