Indonesia: Endangered Turtle Egg Ban Finally Enforced

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 7 Mar 12;

Samarinda, East Kalimantan. Police in Samarinda have announced a bizarre crackdown on the illegal trade in the eggs of the endangered green turtle, a move that wildlife activists have derided as coming far too late.

Sr. Comr. Arif Prapto Santoso, the Samarinda Police chief, said on Tuesday that the crackdown would not begin until March 18.

Until then, he said, the traders would be allowed to continue selling the eggs to clear their stocks “because we don’t want them to incur any financial losses.”

He added that in preparation for the raids, police had issued notices to all known turtle egg vendors warning them not to sell any eggs after March 18.

“Several of the traders have signed an agreement saying they would comply with the deadline,” he said.

Arif said the campaign was purely a police initiative and denied it was prompted by any outside pressure to get tough on the illegal but widespread trade.

“We just want to enforce the law, which is being flouted with impunity,” he said.

The announcement, though, comes just a week after the World Wildlife Fund blamed the selling of turtle eggs, among other factors, for a 70 percent decline in the green sea turtle population in the Berau marine conservation area off East Kalimantan during the past decade.

Wiwin Efendi, the East Kalimantan coordinator for WWF Indonesia, said the police’s campaign was too little, too late.

If they were so eager to enforce the ban on the turtle egg trade, she said, they should have done so when it was first introduced in 1990, under the Law on Natura l Resources Conservation.

The law states that anyone caught dealing in the eggs of protected species, including the green turtle, could face up to five years in prison and Rp 100 million ($11,000) in fines.

“The ban came out more than 20 years ago, so why are the police only acting now?” Wiwin said.

For their part, the egg traders, who operate largely in the open along Jalan R.E. Martadinata, said they objected to the crackdown because the eggs they sold came from outside East Kalimantan waters.

Muhlis, a trader, said he got his eggs from turtle nesting grounds in South Kalimantan and Bali. The ban, though, makes no distinction regarding the origin of the stolen eggs.