An experimental program that uses a model drone airplane to conduct aerial surveys of vital rainforest habitat in Indonesia has quickly proven a success – returning with images of both orangutans and the sad effects of deforestation.
The radio-controlled drone was tested recently in Indonesia, and relayed images that would previously have only been possible with low-flying airplanes. Those flights, however, are both dangerous and prohibitively expensive.
The thick forest canopy in Indonesia makes visual identification difficult of orangutans in the high treetops. But the drone’s mounted cameras clearly showed orangutans nesting in the trees.
It is believed that systematic drone flights will be a valuable tool in developing accurate counts as to the number of orangutans left in the wild, which previously had been estimates.
Four men went on trial in Borneo on February 8, accused of killing orangutans and other endangered primates for profit at a palm oil plantation.
Phuah Chuan Hun, manager of the plantation in East Kalimantan, and his employee, Widiantoro, paid two men to kill orangutans and proboscis monkeys, prosecutors claimed. They and the two alleged killers, Imam Muhtarom and Mujianto, face five years in prison if convicted.
According to news agency AFP, prosecutors allege the men were paid one million rupiah (USD $111) for each orangutan and 200,000 rupiah (USD $22) for other monkeys. The two used a 4.5-millimetre calibre airsoft gun to shoot the orangutans out of trees before their hunting dogs chased them.
Prosecutors claim Muhtarom and Mujianto would then club the orangutans with rocks or wooden sticks before binding their corpses and taking photographs as evidence.