Indonesia: Sentences for North Sumatra poachers ‘too lenient’

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post 4 Feb 16;

The North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) expressed pessimism on Wednesday that two-year prison sentences given by a court to three tiger pelt sellers would help to decrease similar crimes.

The agency’s protection, preservation and mapping section head Joko Iswanto said the sentences were too lenient. He expected the panel of judges to sentence the three defendants to the maximum penalty of five years to have a deterrent effect on others.

“With the two-year sentences I am pessimistic that it will affect the government’s efforts to control the illegal trade of Sumatran tiger skins,” Joko told The Jakarta Post.

He said that, based on the cases his office had handled, no perpetrators had been sentenced to the maximum. In a previous case in Medan in 2012, the perpetrator was sentenced to only a year in prison.

Joko said the government needed to revise the punishment for perpetrators cited in Law No. 5/1990 on natural resources and ecosystem conservation so it carried a minimum penalty of five years in prison.

“I am sure that if the minimum penalty for the illegal trade of rare animals was five years, the activity [...] would decrease because the perpetrators would be afraid [of the possible penalties],” Joko said.

He added that the trade of Sumatran tiger pelts remained strong in North Sumatra. Joko said perpetrators operated in subdistricts close to Mount Leuser National Park (TNGL), while buyers were based in Medan.

The Medan District Court on Tuesday sentenced Gunawan Kacaribu, 24, M. Said Ali Raden Gusnoh, 39, and Suroyo, 30, to two years in prison each and fined them Rp 10 million (US$714) for trading Sumatran tiger skins. All three hail from Langkat regency, North Sumatra.

The sentences were more lenient than those demanded by prosecutors, who sought two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and Rp 10 million fines for each of the defendants.

Judge Marsudin Nainggolan said the panel of judges did not find anything to mitigate the criminal elements in the case.

The defendants obtained a tiger skin from Eka Sembiring for Rp 1.5 million. Each contributed Rp 500,000 to buy the product from Eka, who trapped the animal in the border area of TNGL.

After buying the pelt, Marsudin said, the three planned to sell it to buyer Rian, who had ordered it by phone, for Rp 7 million. The three were arrested by forest rangers at a hotel in Binjai on Sept. 14, 2015. The rangers also seized a tiger skin as evidence.

Responding to the verdicts, the three defendants said they accepted their punishment. The prosecutors also accepted the sentences.

Meanwhile in Bengkalis regency, Riau, a female wild Sumatran elephant was found dead by locals not far from a housing complex in Balai Raja subdistrict, Pinggir district, on Wednesday at about 6 a.m.

Nature Lovers Association (Hipam) Duri-Riau chairman Zulhusni Syukri said that after checking the animal, Hipam workers found no indication of violence on the body of the adult elephant.

“All parts of its body were intact,” Zulhusni said.

Separately, BKSDA Duri’s Region III section head Haluanto Ginting said veterinarians and investigators had been sent to investigate the elephant’s cause of death.

“A necropsy has to be done. We will have its internal organs examined at the laboratory,” said Haluanto, indicating the possibility that the elephant may have been poisoned.

He expressed hope that locals would act wisely when dealing with wild elephants to prevent deaths.

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