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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Police arrest 5 who killed orangutan in Borneo with air gun

In this Jan. 7, 2016, file photo, a wild orangutan sits on a tree branch in Sungai Mangkutub, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. (Dita Alangkara, File / Associated Press)
By Niniek Karmini Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Four Indonesian farmers and a 13-year-old boy admitted they stabbed, clubbed and shot a critically endangered orangutan at least 130 times with an air gun to protect their pineapple crop, police said Monday.

Villagers spotted the wounded orangutan in a lake in the East Kutai district of East Kalimantan province on Borneo two weeks ago. It was taken to a clinic at an orangutan protection center but died while being treated.

Local police chief detective Yuliansyah said four male members of a family, including the 13-year-old, and their neighbor were arrested last week.

“All the suspects have told police that they shot, stabbed and clubbed the orangutan,” said Yuliansyah, who goes by a single name. “They did it because they considered the animal to be a pest that ruined the family’s pineapple plantation.”

An X-ray showed at least 130 air gun pellets in the great ape’s body, including more than 70 in its head, the Center for Orangutan Protection has said.

Its autopsy found the animal was blinded as a result of the shooting and also had 17 open wounds believed to be caused by sharp objects. Its left thigh, right chest and left hand were bruised from blunt object trauma.

If found guilty of violating the National Resources Conservation Law, the adult suspects face up to five years in jail and fines of $7,400. The boy could face half the adult punishment at a juvenile detention center.

Yuliansyah said the boy will continue to attend school while the case is underway.

The numbers of orangutans on Borneo and on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, recognized as separate species and both classified as critically endangered, have fallen precipitously since the 1970s. A new study published last week estimated that the population on Borneo has dropped by more than 100,000 since 1999.

Orangutans are a protected species in Indonesia and Malaysia, but deforestation has dramatically reduced their habitat and brought them into contact with farmers and plantation workers who kill them to protect crops and for meat.

Indonesia has lost half of its rain forests in the last half century in its rush to supply the world with timber, pulp, paper and, more recently, palm oil.

In mid-January, an orangutan was found decapitated and shot more than a dozen times with an air gun in Central Kalimantan, environmental news website Mongabay reported. Police arrested two rubber farmers suspected in the killing, it said.