Posted on 14:56 June 07th, 2015
Pangolins and cockatoos, two species native to Indonesia, command high value. They are, however, endangered wildlife. Trading them is illegal. Two recent police busts, one in North Sumatra and the other in East Java, revealed the lengths smugglers go to in order to profit from wildlife crime. The two cases underscore the huge, shady business of illicit wildlife trafficking, which has been given a further boost by online technology.
In Medan in late April, authorities seized 5 tons of frozen pangolin, 77 kilograms of pangolin scales and 96 live pangolins. Meanwhile, in Surabaya on May 4, officials found two dozen yellow-crested cockatoos stuffed in plastic bottles.
Pangolins, or trenggiling in Indonesian, are scaly anteaters. One place where they thrive is in West Kalimantan province. In the Gunung Bulat area in the district of Sambas, night poachers use trained dogs to track and sniff out pangolins, a nocturnal creature.
The anteaters are smuggled out to Sarawak ,north of the border with East Malaysia. They are then routed through Tawau in Sabah to China. The meat is a delicacy. The keratin-based scales are used to make (scientifically unproven) medicine.
Human fingernails are made from keratin. One kilo of the pangolin’s plate-like scales, similar in appearance to a pine cone or the skin of the salak fruit, can fetch Rp 3 million (US$230) for the trader.
“Certainly, if exploitation in the wild becomes intensive, extinction is within sight,” declared Albertus Tjiu, project leader for WWF Indonesia’s West Kalimantan program. The Bali tiger, the Javan tiger and the West Kalimantan rhino are believed to have already become extinct.
Kalimantan is a rich depository of biological diversity. Its land area mass is under 1 percent of the world’s land mass, yet it houses 6 percent of the world’s flora and fauna. One hectare of Kalimantan forest, for instance, holds more than 150 tree species. As for fauna, its lowland tropical forests are home to 30,000 kinds of beetle, 666 species of dragonfly and 122 species of swallowtail butterfly.
Online wildlife trafficking, especially of protected species, is becoming more widespread, according to Profauna, an environmental organization based in Malang, East Java, which tracks illicit wildlife trading. In 2014 the group counted no fewer than 3,640 online ads offering the Javan hawk-eagle, Siamang gibbon, Surili, Javan langur, palm cockatoo, black-capped lory, slow loris and eclectus parrot, Profauna stated in a January 2015 report.
The organization filed at least 78 cases of wildlife crime in Indonesia in 2014, including the attempted smuggling out on Aug. 23 from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta, of 28 helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) beaks. These beaks are worth Rp 2 million per 100 grams. On Oct. 28, officers thwarted the shipment of 53 black-capped lories, four yellow-crested cockatoos, one eclectus parrot, three cassowaries, and a number of deer tusks on a ferry in Bitung, North Sulawesi.
Indonesia has at least 16 laws that relate to biodiversity. They include the 1999 Forestry Law, the 2007 Coastal and Small Islands Management Law, the 2009 Environment Protection and Management Law and the 2013 Prevention and Eradication of Forest Destruction Law, to name four. Against illegal wildlife trading, prosecutors tend to use the 1990 Living Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation Law (UU KSDA).
Activities that “lead to a change in the integrity of a natural sanctuary” are classified as crimes. Such acts include poaching and setting forest fires. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a Rp 200 million fine.
“Without strong law enforcement, biodiversity will be devastated. When all is gone, there is no return,” declared Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ) director Maha Adi. Law enforcement officials confess to a common handicap. In trying biodiversity cases, they lack qualified prosecutors and judges knowledgeable of the environment and environmental law.
Weak law enforcement can be remedied by enhancing the capacity of judicial officials in environmental law. Chemonics, a USAID contractor in international development, has a “Changes for Justice” project. It supports the Supreme Court’s enhancement program in environment law for district court and high court judges.
Similar enhancement work must also be undertaken for prosecutors, police officers, environmental campaigners, investors in environment-related businesses and journalists. Officials at national and subnational levels must boost their awareness of environmental issues. The new Environment and Forestry Ministry must get involved in reinforcing the legal knowledge and capacity of biodiversity stakeholders.
A business-as-usual attitude to biodiversity would be tantamount to a license to let Indonesia’s biodiversity die. - See more at: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/06/07/wildlife-crime-still-thriving-indonesia.html#sthash.CCSZUDsb.iRbzp5Vd.dpuf