Indonesia: Wildlife Crimes Pose Serious Risk to Conservation Efforts

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 12 Jan 17;

Jakarta. Indonesia still experiences an unacceptably high number of wildlife crimes, considered the fourth-most prevalent type of criminal offense in the world.

The directorate general of law enforcement at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry reported 59 incidences of wildlife crimes, including illegal hunting and the ownership, trade and distribution of protected species, in 2016.

The authorities confiscated 6,247 animals in these cases, with most of them being reptiles, followed by birds, primates and mammals.

The ministry warned that these numbers must be drastically reduced to prevent irreparable damage to Indonesia's endemic wildlife.

"We used to have Balinese and Javanese tigers and it is such a shame that we cannot save something we're proud of," Istanto, director for forest security and prevention, said on Wednesday (11/01), while speaking about the Sumatran tiger's race to extinction.

He called for a shift in perception so that tiger skins should no longer be considered luxury items, as Sumatran tigers could be extinct in less than 10 years.

"If you love it, it does not mean you have to own it," Istanto said.

This sentiment was shared by the Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia Program (WCS-IP) and the National Police's Criminal Investigation Unit (Bareskrim) during a discussion about wildlife crimes in Indonesia, which highlighted the troubling issue of people keeping protected animals as pets, or collecting them as a hobby.

According to WCS-IP's Wildlife Crimes Unit, many perpetrators of this type of crime usually pay their dues when caught and then return to their vices once they are released from prison.

"An estimated 20 percent of offenders go back to the same crime after their release, which means that there is still not enough of a deterrent effect," Wildlife Crimes Unit program manager Dwi N. Adhiasto said.

He believes the punishment is also not heavy enough, because courts tend to disregard the financial losses the country suffers because of wildlife crimes.

The ministry estimates that Indonesia lost up to Rp 3 trillion ($225 million) in environmental value in 2013, which impacted the larger ecosystem.

"It's not about [losing] one orangutan, or one tiger – it's about destroying the entire ecosystem, the effects of which are too large to ignore," WCS-IP country director Noviar Andayani said.

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