In a daring rescue mission, two five-month-old Sumatran orangutans were plucked from the clutches of an international wildlife trafficking syndicate just moments before they were slated to be traded in Medan, North Sumatra. The operation, which led to the capture of courier Reza Heryadi (35), has shed light on a deeply entrenched network involved in the illegal hunting and trading of protected wildlife.
Commissioner Hadi Wahyudi, Head of the Public Relations Division of the North Sumatra Provincial Police, revealed, "We apprehended the courier named Reza Heryadi (35) while he was transporting the orangutans on Sisingamangaraja XII Street, Medan." It was later confirmed that these precious creatures were the tragic outcome of hunting in the Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP), a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its rich biodiversity.
The operation was a joint effort, with the GLNP Management Center and the Wildlife Justice Commission collaborating closely with the police to dismantle this illicit network. Acting on intelligence regarding the orangutan shipment, a team from the Special Criminal Investigation Directorate of the North Sumatra Provincial Police intercepted Reza's vehicle on Sisingamangaraja XII Street in the early hours of Wednesday, September 27, 2023.
A thorough search uncovered the two baby orangutans, confined within wire mesh enclosures, a cruel makeshift arrangement akin to those typically used for birds. These cages were shrouded with black plastic netting and sealed partially with duct tape, showcasing the callousness with which these endangered creatures were treated.
Once safely in the custody of the authorities, a male and female orangutan, the police and GLNP Management Center launched an investigation to trace the origins of this tragic trade. It is believed Reza was merely a cog in the wheel, tasked with transporting the animals from the Aceh Tamiang region to Medan. Below him lie two more crucial links in the chain - the hunter and the initial buyer.
The fate of these orangutans hung in the balance as they were destined for a second buyer in Medan. Tragically, in many cases, baby orangutans meet two fates: they are either smuggled abroad through maritime routes or sold to buyers within the country. For now, the two infants find solace under the watchful care of the North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Center.
Palber Turnip, the Head of Region III of the GLNP Management Center, disclosed that these two baby orangutans are believed to have been snatched from the Aceh Tamiang region. The team has also gleaned information regarding the identity of the initial buyer of these precious creatures.
"At present, together with the North Sumatra Provincial Police, we are striving to locate the hunter," he affirmed.
Palber underscored that Region III of the GLNP, particularly in the Langkat Regency up to Aceh Tamiang, represents a densely populated orangutan habitat. Consequently, conflicts between humans and orangutans are notably high in this area. Tragically, hunting and habitat destruction contribute significantly to the dwindling population of the Sumatran orangutan.
Crucially, baby orangutans are the primary targets due to the soaring demand in the black market. It's imperative to recognise that, to capture one baby orangutan, a hunter must take the life of its mother. Mother orangutans, known for their unwavering protection, carry their offspring until they reach the age of eight - a testament that in order to carry an orangutan child, the mother must be carried first. This means that orangutan hunting has claimed many victims, starting from their mothers deliberately killed and their children being trafficked.