Indonesia: Police bust illegal wildlife trader, confiscate Rp 3b in animal goods

Fedina S. Sundaryani, The Jakarta Post 2 Dec 15;

The National Police have called on the public to increase their concern about wildlife preservation following the recent arrest of a man who amassed wild animal goods worth up to Rp 3 billion (US$217,079) to sell abroad.

The National Police’s detective division chief, Comr. Gen. Anang Iskandar, said that the illegal wildlife trade had recently become a pressing concern of countries in Southeast Asia.

In 2005, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) had been established in order catch transnational poachers faster.

“[Combating illegal wildlife traders] would be difficult without public support and civil society groups […] We in Indonesia already have several laws to protect our wildlife, but in reality many wild animals are not being treated as they should be according to the law; many are traded. Even now you can see ivory, antlers and furs being sold everywhere,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“We will campaign to raise awareness [among the public] that wild animals must be protected.”

The National Police’s director for specific crimes, Brig. Gen. Yazid Fanani, said that the 61-year-old suspect, only known as AA, had been arrested on Oct. 21 in Surabaya, East Java for allegedly trading wildlife goods for nearly two years.

During his arrest, investigators managed to confiscate 79 kilograms of sea turtle meat, hundreds of sea turtle shells weighing up to 350 kilograms and antlers of the sambar deer weighing up to 85 kilograms, all of which came from an estimated 270 sea turtles and 34 deer.

The investigators also managed to confiscate 90 dried sea horses.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, leatherback sea turtles and sambar deer are both categorized as vulnerable, which means that there was a high risk of endangerment in the wild.

The evidence was completely destroyed by investigators during an event on Tuesday at the National Police headquarters in South Jakarta as a warning against other illegal wildlife traders.

“We believe that [AA] absolutely did not work on his own and that he was part of a larger network. We are currently working with the Environment and Forestry Ministry, various civil society groups and also members of the public who care about the preservation of our wildlife [to further our investigation]. Based on our initial interrogation, [the suspect] sold the items both in person and through online channels,” Yazid said.

Furthermore, he added that AA had admitted that many of his customers had been traders from China and the Middle East, where sea turtles are often used for food or medicine.

If found guilty, AA could face a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of Rp 100 million under Law No. 5/1990 on conservation.

During the event, the US Embassy to Indonesia’s deputy chief of mission, Brian McFeeters, expressed his appreciation of the National Police’s firm hand against illegal wildlife traders. Furthermore, he pointed out that Indonesia had become “one of the largest suppliers” of rare animals.

In July, the United Nations adopted a resolution that upgraded the seriousness of wildlife crimes and put them on par with the trafficking of people and arms. Although the resolution is not legally binding, it showed the growing global opposition against the poaching and trafficking of endangered wildlife.

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