Fire Engulfs Orangutan Conservation Site in East Kalimantan. Fire has engulfed at least 200 hectares of an area in a conservation center for orangutans in East Kalimantan – the second such blaze there in the past few months – but the endangered apes there remain safe for now.
Nico Hermanto, a communications officer with Borneo Orangutan Survival, which runs the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Reintroduction Center, said the fire began on Thursday afternoon and was extinguished by 1 a.m. on Friday, before flaring up again later in the day.
He said this was the second fire incident at the site in the past few months, attributing both incidents to the unseasonably harsh dry season this year as a result of the El Niño weather phenomenon.
“This is the second fire incident in Samboja Lestari. Previously only 30 hectares were burned, but now it has affected a larger swath of land – 200 hectares,” Nico said on Friday.
“Fire is still burning in several spots – we’re having difficulties putting it out. There is potential that the fire will expand. We will keep working on extinguishing the fire.”
He added the foundation was receiving help from the military and the local unit of oil and gas company Total E&P Indonesie – which has fire trucks – to put out the fire at the site outside Balikpapan.
Nico expressed disappointment over the lack of response from the local administration, saying that neither the fire department nor the wildlife conservation agency had responded to his foundation’s request for help.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry in Jakarta, though, was swifter in responding, having immediately sent a team of seven people from its forest fire response unit after the foundation contacted it, Nico said.
He added that none of the orangutans at the site were harmed in the incident because they were concentrated in another part of the 1,852-hectare center, away from the fire.