KOMPAS.com - Sickening details of a plan to slaughter endangered orang-utans were revealed today with the arrest of two men taking part in a hunt-and-kill operation in the jungles of Indonesia.
The palm oil workers were accused by police of hacking to death 20 orang-utans and a number of proboscis monkeys. But it is feared many more have been slaughtered.
For each kill, the men were paid $US100 (£64) for a dead orang-utan and $22 (£14) for a monkey - a fortune on the island of Borneo, where Indonesia has sovereignty over two thirds of the land.
The Daily Mail revealed earlier this month that hundreds of orang-utans have been killed for food by villagers in Borneo in recent years as man and beast struggle for survival. The arrest this week of the two palm oil workers is the first evidence that the slaughter is continuing despite appeals for it to stop.
Police said that although the men admitted killing the animals - under orders from a supervisor - between 2008 and 2010 officials believed the slaughter is continuing in a number of areas in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.
The arrested men, who come from the village of Puan Cepak, have admitted to police that they chased the animals, bringing them down with rifle shots before stabbing them or hacking them to death with machetes.
Among the evidence against the men, said the Jakarta Post, were photographs of the slain animals and buried bones unearthed near the palm plantation. 'This is the result of oil palm plantation owners trying to protect their crops from hungry orang-utans,' said police spokesman Colonel Antonius Sutirta.
'It's one of those unfortunate situations where farmers are taking more land as the population grows, or where demand for cooking oil increases, and the habitat of the orang-utans gets smaller.'
Mr Sutirta said that if convicted the oil palm hunters would face up to five years in prison. But wildlife officials said putting two men in jail would be unlikely to stop the slaughter.
'There's a demand for food for the human population and there's the greed for making money from palm oil,' said a wildlife official in Jakarta.
'The result is diminishing habitat for the orang-utans and the death of these wonderful animals who are becoming desperate for food themselves.'
Police said they were considering the arrest of the supervisors who sent the men out on their slaughter missions. Indonesia is home to 90 per cent of the 50,000 orang-utans left in the wild. In the past 50 years, as the demand for palm oil, timber and vegetables has grown, indonesia has lost half of its rain forests.