Indonesia bans Dutch biologist for contradicting Minister on orangutan health
Dutch biologist Erik Meijaard is no longer allowed to enter Indonesia’s nature parks after he contradicted the Indonesian environment minister on the state of the orangutang population. The Minister claimed that the great apes are no longer in danger of extinction. Meijaard and four international colleagues publicly pointed out that this is far from the truth, the Volkskrant reports.
On Monday, on International Orangutang Day, the Indonesian Minister of Forestry and Environment praised the president’s wildlife policy and reported that the iconic animal is not in danger of extinction. On the contrary, the populations continue to grow, she said.
Meijaard and his colleagues, who have been researching orangutans in Indonesia for 30 years, wrote an opinion piece in the Indonesian newspaper The Jakarta Post alerting the Minister to several scientific studies that show that the number of orangutans has been declining for decades. Figures from Minister Siti Nurbaya’s own Ministry show that there are fewer of the great apes every year, they pointed out.
Following the opinion piece, park managers across Indonesia received a letter from the Minister with the five critical scientists’ names and instructions not to allow them into the parks. They have discredited Indonesia and are no longer welcome, she said, according to the newspaper.
“A kind of alternative reality is being created,” Meijaard said to the Volkskrant. “This has been going on for a while. You can no longer say in Indonesia that the orangutan is threatened with extinction. If you claim that everything is going well for long enough, the public will believe it.”
Deforestation and unsustainable hunting are reducing the number of orangutans by thousands of animals each year, Meijaard said. He estimates that less than 80,000 orangutans still live in Indonesia - about half the population of 15 years ago.