Nine trafficked orangutans were flown back home to Indonesia on Friday after they were rescued from the illegal wildlife trade in Malaysia. The animals were flown to North Sumatra.
Poachers in Southeast Asia frequently capture the critically endangered Sumatran orangutans from forests to sell as pets. Fewer than 15,000 of the apes are estimated to remain in the wild.
Provincial conservation official Hotmauli Sianturi told a press conference on Friday that the apes had been tested and cleared for COVID-19 infections. They will be taken to a sanctuary in North Sumatra to undergo observation for a few months before they are returned to the forest.
Their arrival in Indonesia came the same day as the orangutans Ung Aing and Natalee were flown back to the country from Thailand. Traffickers had attempted to smuggle them into Thailand through Malaysia three years ago but were intercepted by local authorities at the border.
Sumatran orangutans’ habitat has drastically shrunk over the past few decades from logging, palm oil plantations and mining. Plantation workers and villagers sometimes also attack the animals.