Saturday, 2 August 2008

Rare species trade persists in Sumatra

Sunday, August 3, 2008 The Jakarta Post

Rare species trade persists in Sumatra

Khairul Saleh , The Jakarta Post , Palembang Sat, 08/02/2008

The government should mete out the stiffest punishment against anyone involved in the trade of protected wildlife to deter recurrences of the crime, said a conservationist Friday.

On July 30, the police busted a wildlife trading syndicate involved in a large-scale export of anteaters.

"They have clearly violated the law on the protection of rare wildlife species. Whoever is involved, be they traders on the local level, middlemen, exporters and officials related to the protection and trade of wildlife, should be harshly punished to prevent the same thing from happening," said South Sumatra chapter Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) head Sri Lestari in Palembang on Friday.

The discovery of large volumes of protected wildlife for export, Lestari said, showed the extent of wildlife trade dealings in Palembang, which have occurred for a long time.

The recent crackdown on the illegal trade illustrated how lax government supervision was on the protection of rare species, she added.
"The current extent of the trade is likely due to backings from corrupt officials," Lestari said.

The anteater (manis javanica) is a protected mammal species in Indonesia and is regulated under the 1990 law on the protection of rare wildlife species, which stipulates that it is prohibited to kill, hurt, hunt, keep or trade in live or dead anteaters, including their parts.

"Violators face a maximum five years' imprisonment and Rp 100 million (US$11,000) in fines," Lestari said. Police on July 30 seized 8.25 tons of frozen anteater meat, 200 tons of dried anteater skin, including 85 anteater gall bladders, all ready for export, from an anteater processing facility in Alang-Alang Lebar, Palembang.

The state is estimated to have incurred a loss into the tens of billions. Based on a press release from the police, the price of anteater meat on the local market can fetch up to Rp 250,000 per kilogram. Police have detained 11 suspects, one of them a Malaysian named E Kong Seng, alias Aseng, 29. According to the police, the detainees will be taken to the National Police headquarters in Jakarta soon.

Aseng admitted to running the business by using a tourist visa. He came to Palembang every two months and returned to Malaysia to extend his visa only to return to Palembang again, doing so repeatedly.

Aseng admitted the illegal trade involved various parties. He confessed to have bribed officers at the airport, port, Natural Resources Conservation Center, and high-ranking police and military officials.

"I got my supply of anteaters from petty traders who come to the factory. We sorted them according to customers' orders. Some ordered live anteaters, but most orders were for the skin," Aseng said.
He said the meat was used for consumption and as a raw material in traditional drugs, while the leather was used to make bags, wallets and home accessories.

The National Police received information from the Singaporean police after they found out that the anteater skin originated from Indonesia.
Based on investigations, there are at least three anteater processing centers in the country, namely Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Sumatra.