Indonesia: WWF Indonesia Talks Illegal Wildlife Trade Ahead of World Environment Day

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 2 Jun 16;

Jakarta. World Wildlife Fund Indonesia hosted a forum themed "Zero Tolerance for Illegal Wildlife Trade" in Jakarta on Thursday (02/06) in response to rising demand for exotic animals on the black market.

The Indonesian branch of the international conservation organization said critically endangered animals such as sea turtles and Sumatran tigers, rhinos and elephants are at risk as their body parts are often sold as souvenirs, lifestyle accessories or for use in traditional medicines.

Participants also discussed the alarming increase in the archipelago of the illegal wildlife trade, which is currently the fifth-largest in the world, according to WWF Indonesia conservation director Arnold Sitompul.

The forum invited several government ministries and officials, including representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, a member of the House of Representatives and officers of the Bali Maritime Police and the Jakarta Police.

"As a country with mega-biodiversity, Indonesia continues to be the source of exotic wildlife and the illegal trade is worth over $10 million a year," Arnold said in his opening speech.

It was revealed in the forum that the country lost more than Rp 9 trillion ($657 million) from the illegal trade, with almost 70 cases reported in the first three months of this year alone.

"The issue of illegal wildlife trade is just the tip of the iceberg," said Khairul Saleh of WWF Indonesia. He added that it was unlikely to stop as long as demand from both local and international markets continue to increase.

According to Khairul, it is still common to see illegally traded pets in popular Indonesian online marketplaces such as Tokopedia, Lazada, and Bukalapak, or even on social-media platforms such as Blackberry Messenger, Facebook and Instagram.

Sugeng Riyanto, a representative of the National Police's Criminal Investigation Agency (Bareskrim Polri), added that in some cases, the body parts of exotic animals are even traded in the open.

"There is a high demand for exotic animal parts and potential buyers are often invited to check out the warehouses for themselves, sometimes even without an appointment," Sugeng said.

Despite many efforts by WWF Indonesia and the authorities to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, participants were considering ways to more effectively eliminate the scourge.

Officials from the Bali Regional Police suggested that regulations should be unified, because penalties for the illegal trade in wildlife vary in different parts of the country, in accordance with regional jurisdictions.

An Indonesia Veterinary Association representative pointed out a flaw in the quarantine coordination, as the quarantine body is important to get rid of back doors for international and local smugglers.

A survey by WWF Indonesia showed that 35 percent of respondents believe that tougher maximum punishments would help deter wildlife crimes, while 27 percent believe in stricter monitoring.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Aryo Djojohadikusumo acknowledged the importance of tougher laws, while he urged the government to increase the budget allocation for wildlife crimes.

"The state budget for all forest rangers in Indonesia is only $3 million dollars and the budget also has to cover conservation of critically endangered species," Aryo said. He called for the prioritization of a budget increase for conservation efforts.

According to the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) lawmaker, it was also important for social media influencers to push for a change in the mindset of Indonesians and to advocate for animal rights.

World Environment Day is celebrated annually on June 5th.