The Price of Money
illegal, young orangutans are still highly valued as pets. Their mothers
are invariably killed to get the infant.
Despite it being illegal to kill, capture, keep or trade orangutans in Indonesia, many do still find their way to people's homes as pets or into the black market animal trade. Some people within Indonesia and overseas are still willing to pay high prices to purchase young orangutans. In some cases they may not realise that by buying an infant they are themselves perpetuating this horrific trade and further depleting the wild orangutan population. Often, however, they do know full well that it is illegal, and still flout the law. Particularly worrying is the large number of high ranking officials, including members of the police, the armed forces, local and national politicians, who in their arrogance take pleasure in keeping endangered wildlife as a sign of their status, to show others that they are above the law.
When capturing young orangutans for the trade it is not only the infants that suffer. No orangutan mother is going to readily give up her offspring without a fight. On the contrary, she will defend her infant to the death, and that is invariably exactly what happens: the mothers being battered and bruised and eventually killed in a hail of club and machete strikes. There are even cases of adult orangutans being burned alive, including occasions where they have been first doused in petrol and then set alight. Ironically, the infant is often killed during the capture process as well, either in the fall from the trees, still clinging onto its dead mother's abdomen, in the beating that ensues, or in the filthy and insanitary conditions that such pets are subsequently kept in. Even for those lucky few that do survive the initial days or weeks of captivity, the process of capture, transport and trade is an extremely traumatic one and many infants still eventually succumb and die from the stress.
A very conservative estimate suggests that probably only one out of every three infants captured ever survives the experience, meaning that for every one that does survive long enough to become someone's pet, at least 5 others (2 infants and 3 mothers) have probably died in the process.