Indonesia: Illegal wildlife traders arrested in Riau

Rizal Harahap Jakarta Globe 1 May 16;

Officers from the Riau Police’s special crime investigations unit have arrested two traders of rare and protected species parts in Bukit Pedusunan, Kuantan Singingi regency, Riau.

The Riau Police’s special crime investigations deputy director Adj. Sr. Comr. Ari Rahman Nafarin said it was suspected that the two wildlife traders, identified only as Herman, 54, and Andri, 45, had long been members of an international wildlife trade syndicate. They could evade arrest for so long because the police had difficulty in getting evidence on the suspects, he added.

Ari said the police managed on Friday to arrest the two traders after they were entrapped by a police officer who pretended to be a customer for their wildlife products. After two days of negotiations, he said, they agreed to show the wildlife parts they were willing to sell.

“Right after our personnel saw the evidence, they were arrested,” said Ari in a press conference on Saturday.

The police chief further explained that from the two suspects, they confiscated several pieces of evidence, comprising a tiger skin, which was still in the preserving process, several sheets of dried snake skins, one set of tiger bones, one set of bear bones and two bird skulls. They were worth a total of around Rp 100 million ( US$7,577.20 ).

The police said all of the wildlife products were hidden in a place behind of Herman’s house. What the purpose of the tiger skin and bear bones was remained unknown. Ari said the police would question traditional medicine experts to find out.

It was the first time for the Riau Police to confiscate a tiger skin. Previously they had seized several tusks of wild elephants.

Where the two suspects got the wildlife parts also remains unknown. Ari said they were suspected of violating Law No.5/1990 on the conservation of biodiversity and its ecosystem, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and Rp 100 million in fines. From their preliminary investigation, he said, the police concluded that Herman and Andri were just buyers, not wildlife hunters.

“From their statements, we will pursue the hunters,” said Ari, adding that the investigators would also investigate other wildlife parts the two suspects had traded before.

Wildlife crime – Personnel of the Riau Police’s special crime investigation unit show bits of tiger skin in the course of being preserved and other skins they confiscated from two wildlife organ traders. The tiger skin sells for between Rp 50 million ( US$3,788.60 ) and Rp 100 million on the black market. ( thejakartapost.com/Rizal Harahap )

Osmantri, the World Wildlife Fund’s ( WWF ) wildlife crime team ( WCT ) coordinator for central Sumatra, said Herman had long worked as a protected-wildlife trader on the black market, he was known as Man Bobok.

He further said Herman was only a wildlife buyer and he had carried out this profession for at least the last five years. Apart from Riau, wildlife lovers in West Sumatra and Jambi knew Man Bobok well and his network spread across the three provinces.

“He played a key role in the chain of wildlife trading crime,” said Osmantri.

Based on information obtained from WCT informants in the three provinces, Herman had bought tiger skins from wildlife hunters several times.

Ari said wildlife products bought by Man Bobok were from forest areas in Kuantan Singingi, Kampar and Indragiri Hulu regencies and conservation areas on the Riau-Jambi and Riau-West Sumatra borders. The Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Agency ( BKSDA ) had long targeted Herman and continued to follow the case to discover tiger and other protected species hunts in the province.

On the black market, a piece of tiger skin of less than 150 centimeters in length can sell for between Rp 50 million and Rp 70 million. Meanwhile, a piece bigger than 180 cm sells for more than Rp 100 million. Most tiger skins are sold to domestic consumers. Dried tiger bones are sold at Rp 2 million per kilogram and are mostly sent to China, where they are processed into powder for the mixture of Chinese traditional medicines. It is widely believed tiger bones can boost male vitality. ( ebf )

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