Row hits Jakarta's N Korea orang-utan plan

21 February 2016 General News

Row hits Jakarta's N Korea orang-utan plan

Activists have hit out at plans to ship an endangered Indonesian orang-utan to a zoo in North Korea.

Animal rights activists have hit out at plans to ship an endangered Indonesian orang-utan to a zoo in secretive North Korea, describing the suggestion as the "worst of the worst".

Under plans floated this week, a single orang-utan could be shipped to the Indonesian capital's "sister city" Pyongyang within the end of the year.

Chief of Jakarta's Sister City Co-operation, Yudi Hermawan, said the concept first surfaced with its North Korean sibling last year but it was postponed because Pyongyang didn't have suitable facilities.

"In November 2015 they stated their cage is ready for an orang-utan in Pyongyang," he told AAP.

While both capitals are keen to go forward with the "swap" or "loan", Indonesian President Joko Widodo would need to give permission for the deal as the primates are protected under Indonesian Laws.

If successful, Yudi said Ragunan Zoo in the capital's south could hand over an orang-utan by the end of the year.

In exchange, Ragunan could be welcoming a pungsan - a North Korean hunting dog - or a Siberian tiger, he said.

For the zoo it would mean one less orang-utan mouth to feed in a home crowded with the orange primates.

Around 50 Bornean and Sumatran orang-utans are kept in the sprawling zoo, having been rescued from poachers and would-be pet owners.

But with an enclosure often only able to show off a single orange-tipped animal at a time, the rest languish in small cell-like quarters at the rear of the viewing area or in quarantine in other sections of the zoo.

"The quarantine is there to house animals temporarily, which for primates would be three months to check if they are healthy or not ... But in Ragunan Zoo orang-utans have been housed inside quarantine for over 30 years," Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) Founder, Femke den Haas told AAP.

With the building of new enclosures coming at a high cost, Ms den Haas supports Ragunan's push to relocate orang-utans to facilities in other countries.

Just not North Korea.

That would be the "worst of the worst".

"A zoo in North Korea is not an option. There is hardly any human rights let alone welfare for animals."

Renowned for its lack of transparency, Ms den Haas said North Korea would undoubtedly mean monitoring of the orang-utan's welfare would be very difficult if not impossible.

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