Two endangered Sumatran orangutans return to Indonesia on Thursday, years after being illegally introduced to Thailand.
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Across Southeast Asia, poachers routinely capture orangutans for sale on the black market as pets or as a tourist attraction.
Four-year-old Ung Aing and Natalee were flown from the shelter in Ratchaburi province where they lived to Bangkok International Airport and fly to Jakarta on Thursday afternoon.
Through a small opening in their cage, the staff gave them bananas, coconuts and isotonic drinks to support the journey.
Animal experts from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok also performed coronavirus tests on the duo before they left.
Upon arrival, the couple will undergo a rehabilitation program before being released back into the wild on the island of Sumatra, its natural habitat.
Wildlife traffickers attempted to smuggle the two primates into Thailand via Malaysia in June 2017, but they were intercepted at the border.
During this operation carried out in Had Yai, in the south of the kingdom, the police also discovered 42 turtles of rare species and 6 raccoons.
Since 2006, Thailand has confiscated from poachers and returned to Indonesia 60 orangutans, many of whom were able to return to the wild, according to the deputy director general of the Thai Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Prakit Vongsrivattanakul.
“Thailand has every intention of stopping the illegal wildlife trade and returning (animals) to their natural habitat,” he said.
“We know that no country can fight wildlife trafficking on its own. ”
Indonesia and Thailand are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations this year and held a special airport transfer ceremony in the morning.
“As a country with rich biodiversity … illegal wildlife trafficking is a huge challenge for Indonesia,” said Indonesian Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Dicky Komar.
Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and their population is estimated at less than 15,000 individuals.
Their habitat has been greatly reduced in recent decades due to logging, oil palm plantations and mining.