Thursday, 5 June 2008

Illegal trade of wild animals alarming level

Thursday, June 5, 2008 3:36 AM Jakarta Post
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Illegal trade of wild animals alarming level

Apriadi Gunawan and Oyos Saroso H.N. , The Jakarta Post , Medan, Bandarlampung Thu, 06/05/2008

The illegal trade and hunting of wild animals, including endangered Sumatran tigers and elephants, has reached alarming levels in several parts of Sumatra.

In Deli Serdang regency, North Sumatra, a forest ranger team on Tuesday arrested two people believed to be members of a wild animal trade syndicate.

They were caught while trading two stuffed Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) believed to have been a year old at the time of their death.
"This is not the first arrest we've made in the last month," head of the natural resource conservation center at the North Sumatra forestry office Djati Wicaksono said.

Just two weeks earlier, he said, his office arrested four people trading a Sumatran tiger skin in Tiga Binanga, Karo regency.

Both the skin and stuffed tigers were taken from Leuser, Southeast Aceh, Djati said. Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, has reportedly become a favored place for the illegal trade because there are many buyers in the city.
Mount Leuser National Park head Nurhadi Utomo said he suspected poachers might have help from the authorities as they seemed to have no difficulties smuggling their wares out of Aceh.

"In fact, we have many check posts they must pass through," Nurhadi told The Jakarta Post in Medan on Tuesday.

In Bandarlampung, local nongovernmental organizations said Lampung had increasingly become a major hub for the trade of endangered animals due to its proximity to Java.

"Lampung is a transit area and production center of ivory handicrafts," said an NGO staffer who asked not to be named, adding that a group of 12 elephant ivory hunters and financial backers had since 2003 sold over 1,200 kilograms of ivory taken from some 47 elephants.

He said that in Way Kambas, a group of 19 ivory hunters, financial backers and craftsmen had sold nearly 1,800 kilograms of ivory from approximately 52 elephants over the same period.

The supply of ivory does not only come from the Way Kambas National Park in Lampung, but also South Sumatra, Bengkulu, Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra.

The source also said a former regent had a collection of 103 daggers whose frames and handles were made of elephant ivory.

"All together, it's the equivalent of 20-30 elephants. That's just from a single person's collection."

Emon, an activist of the Lampung-based environmental NGO Pratala, separately said financial backers often made use of locals to hunt elephants for ivory.

An investigation conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society revealed routes regularly used to smuggle illegal animals through Jakarta, Batam, Singapore and Dumai before being shipped to Malaysia.

Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport has also been named as a shipment terminal for live and frozen animals to Hong Kong and China.
ProFauna Indonesia chairman Rosek Nursahid said in Malang, East Java, conflicts between humans and animals have frequently been used to justify the illegal hunting of wild animals.

"They (poachers) kill wild elephants, for example, and report that the animals attacked a residential area and frightened residents," said Rosek, adding that such circumstances were only infrequently the case.
Light legal sanctions on perpetrators have been blamed for the difficulties in curbing illegal hunting.

The 1990 law on the conservation of natural resources and ecosystems carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison or a maximum fine of Rp 100 million. In practice, however, convicted perpetrators have mostly served a maximum of only five months in prison.

Wahyoe Boediwardhana contributed to this article from Malang, East Java.