Indonesia: Endangered Sumatran Tigers Face New Threat Online

Ismira Lutfia Jakarta Globe 31 Jul 12;

Activists from HarimauKita, a Sumatran tiger conservation forum, have sounded the alarm about the illegal trade in tiger parts now being conducted online, including through social media sites.

Hariyo T. Wibisono, head of monitoring at HarimauKita, said on Sunday that it was important for people to be aware of the illegal trade and to fight it.

“Our focus is to make people aware of how widespread the trade in tiger parts has become online,” he said at a campaign event at National Monument (Monas) Park in Central Jakarta.

“We want them to report to us if they find any indications of it on social networking sites or Internet forums.”

Hariyo said HarimauKita would then forward the reports to the Forestry Ministry, whose jobs he said it was to coordinate with law enforcement agencies in tracking down the traders.

“Our function as a civil society organization is just to monitor the illegal wildlife trade over the Internet,” he added.

HarimauKita’s campaign at Monas was held to mark Global Tiger Day, first celebrated on July 29, 2010.

H.A. Wahyudi, the group’s executive director, said the day was an opportunity to increase public interest and participation in the task of conserving wild tiger populations worldwide.

He said the threat against tigers was particularly high because of online trading, which allowed traders to interact with a wide range of buyers without having to meet them in person.

“We need to narrow down the space in which these people can operate, and for that we need greater public participation to fight the illegal trade in Sumatran tiger parts through the Internet,” he said.

He added that hundreds of HarimauKita volunteers, grouped under the TigerHeart Network, had compiled a list of hundreds of websites dealing in tiger parts since 2010.

“We’ve also identified several sites that have frequently been used as portals to buy and sell tiger parts,” Wahyudi said. “In fact, some perpetrators have even been arrested.”

He said it was also important for the government to participate in the campaign by shutting down sites dealing in the illegal trade.