Two baby orangutans confiscated in Bangkok a few days ago might have been imported from Sumatra, Indonesia to end up as pets for the rich in Bangkok.
The Thai police for Natural Resources and Environmental Crimes (NRECD) intercepted two baby orangutans a few days ago in Bangkok. The orangutans were found in a green-yellow public taxi that were to be delivered to a potential buyer. The buyer was in fact an undercover police officer who made a 100,000 Baht down payment to a Mr. Jiraphat Manasdikul, aged 38, living in Raikhing, Samphran, Nakorn Pathom province. Jiraphat had advertised the orangutan on social media but would only deliver after a deposit was made. Jiraphat rented a taxi and made an appointment for delivery at a Big-C supermarket near Saphan Kwai in Central Bangkok. Although other reports mention different amounts, the total price for the male and female babies was set at 700,000 baht, or 20,000 US$. The remaining 600,000 Baht was to be paid in cash on delivery. Police records show that Jiraphat was not known as a wildlife trader but has been arrested and prosecuted for trade in hard drugs such as methamphetamines.
Besides Mr. Jiraphat’s assistant and the taxi driver, a veterinarian who has treated the orangutans were also taken in for questioning by police, they told police later that the orangutans were not his but belong to a “Mr. Joe” (A nickname for Jiraphat) in Samut Prakarn province, this person is known as a wildlife trader. Although Jiraphat claimed on the internet that the orangutans originate from Indonesia, the courier changed his story during interrogation and said the locally obtained the orangutan, and because of this did not break any laws.
Police have told us that the courier and/or Jiraphat will be charged with illegally importing goods into the country under the customs act. A charge under the wildlife protection laws might follow but will be hard to prosecute as current laws do not protect foreign wildlife specimen.
We at WFFT believe both orangutan babies are not from Borneo as claimed, but instead originate from Sumatra. The Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) is rarer than its cousin the Bornean orangutan and it would be best if these babies could be repatriated back to Sumatra as soon as possible, the Indonesian government however has shown little to no interest in repatriating any of the (69!) orangutans that have been repatriated with the help of WFFT in the past years, with many still being locked up in tiny cages and some even placed in a zoo in Jakarta. Young orangutans can be rehabilitated relatively easy, the older they get the harder it will be, with legal proceedings in Thailand taking years in most cases.