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Hungry villagers kill hundreds of orangutans for food


On the menu: A mother and baby orangutan swinging through the trees in Borneo

Hundreds of orangutans have been killed for food by villagers in Borneo as man and beast struggle for survival, a shock report revealed today.

Almost 700 of the great apes - whose name means man of the forest - have been slaughtered in the rainforests by hungry villagers, while starving animals have moved in the other direction, encroaching onto farmland looking for food.

A survey by a nature group in Indonesia - which shares occupation of Borneo with Malaysia - reveals that 691 orangutans were slaughtered in Kalimatan, Indonesia's larger portion of the island.

Miss Suci Utami Atmoko, a field co-ordinator with The Nature Conservancy, said hunger was the main reason for killing and eating the orang-utans.

'Some residents were desperate and had no other choice but to kill them after spending three days hunting for food,' she said.

Other reasons for killing the great apes included fear of attack, harvesting the meat to make traditional medicine - and to earn money by selling surviving baby orangutans to people who want them as pets.

Under threat: Villagers are killing orangutans for food but the young are often sold as pets

The survey organised by The Nature Conservancy was carried out between April 2008 and September 2009 and involved questioning nearly

7,000 people in 698 villages, although the researches do not specify over what period the animals were killed.

Other groups taking part in the intensive survey included the World Wildlife Fund, the People's Resource and Conservation Foundation Indonesia and the Borneo Orang-utan Survival Foundation.

Borneo is shared between Malaysia and Indonesia

The conservancy's programme manager, Neil Makinuddin, said 70 per cent of the villagers questioned knew that orangutans were a protected and endangered species when they hunted the animals.

Mr Makinuddin said that government decisions to open land in Borneo for human development had not considered orangutans, leading to the destruction of their habitat

Emergency: Aid workers prepare to treat an orangutan caught up in illegal land-clearing fires

'We must soon open conservation areas for orang-utans or their population will become extinct,' he told the Jakarta Post.

'The government should punish orangutan killers.'

There are fears that if just one per cent of female orangutans were killed in one year, Kalimantan's great apes would become extinct.

'Uncontrolled killing will soon diminish their population,' said Mr Erik Erik Meijaard, forest director of People and Nature Consulting International.

It is estimated there are about 50,000 orang-utans in Kalimantan, although the number is rapidly decreasing due to loss of habitat, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Hard to stomach: Orangutans in Borneo are being killed and eaten by villagers hit by food shortages

Deadly trade: Illegal logging in Borneo is a threat to orangutans who are now being hunted for food

source: dailymail