Police are investigating the manager of a palm oil plantation for reportedly ordering two workers to slaughter orangutans in an attempt at “pest control,” an official said on Tuesday.
The manager of the Khaleda Agroprima Malindo plantation in Kutai Kartanegara district, East Kalimantan, is being treated as a witness, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said.
“Our officers in the field are developing this case to determine whether we will go on to name him a suspect,” he said.
“All those involved in this incident and found to have committed a crime will be named a suspect.”
The announcement comes a day after police said they had arrested two workers from the plantation who admitted to trapping and shooting 20 orangutans and monkeys since 2008.
Saud said both the current plantation manager, identified only as P., and his predecessor, A., had ordered the animals killed because they had taken to eating palm fruit on the plantation. Neither has been taken into custody.
The company paid Rp 200,000 ($22) per monkey and Rp 1 million per orangutan, Saud said.
The workers, who are being detained at Kutai police station, could face fines of up to Rp 100 million for killing protected species under the 1990 Law on Natural Resource Conservation.
The evidence — 20 photographs of dead animals and some remains — is under examination as police are working to identify the people behind the policy of treating the endangered animals as pests to be killed.
Saud said that rumors of the involvement of a retired police general in the slaughter were absolutely untrue.
“There is no policy by police or retired police to kill orangutans,” he said.
Orangutans have long been extinct in Java and mainland Southeast Asia. Sumatra and Borneo are now their last refuge.