2016 in Review: The Law is Crippling Wildlife Protection

We have come to the end of 2016. Throughout the year, Indonesia has been shaken up by lots of turmoils. Among the turmoils are of course issues regarding forest and wildlife protection, which has been the main focuses for Protection of Forest & Fauna (PROFAUNA) Indonesia since 1994.

Last year, Indonesia became a global interest for the massive wildfire and haze which impact affected several neighbouring countries. Good news is, this year the fires and haze subside. Do we have good news for the wildlife too?

In 2015 PROFAUNA noted at least 67 cases of wildlife trade covered by the press, but unfortunately we see a sharp rise in the number of cases this year. PROFAUNA notes that since 1 January 2016 until today, there have been 90 cases of wildlife trade appeared in mass media; means that there is an almost 35% increase compared to the previous year and this is not a number we can take pride in.

Big Number, Small Volume

The year of 2015 witnessed some fantastic wildlife trade and smuggling cases, in terms of volume. For example is the forestalled smuggling attempt of 96 live Pangolins, 5,000 kg frozen Pangolin meat, and 77 kg Pangolin scales in Medan in April 2015. Another notable case is probably the foiled smuggling attempt of a container of 40 feet of the Horned Helmet worth IDR 20.422 billion in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, in August 2015.

Although larger in the total number, 2016's wildlife trade cases tend to be small in volume and many of the cases involve various species. For instance the case of wildlife trade involving a diverse wildlife products in Singkawang, West Kalimantan, in April 2016. Officials confiscated 3 Orangutan skulls, 2 Sun Bear skulls, 2 Horbill beaks, 2 Deer horns, 1 Sun Bear bone, 24 Sun Bear claws, 1 Pangolin skin, 1 stuffed Pangolin, 1 stuffed Hawksbill Turtle, 1 Green Turtle shell, 1 Giant Clams, 1 Pearl Oyster, and 111 Porcupine quills.

Another huge case sparked rage among wildlife protection activists in November 2016, when ranked official of Bandung Zoo and Cikembulan Wildlife Park Garut were proven to take part in a wildlife trade network.

During the investigation, officials seized a wide range of stuffed wildlife species including 4 Sumatran Tigers, 1 Leopard Cat, 2 Sun Bears, 1 Sun Bear head, 1 piece of Sumatran Tiger skin, 1 part of Sumatran Tiger tail, 2 Sumatran Tiger claws, 2 Black-capped Lory, 2 Changeable Hawk-eagles, 3 Yellow-crested Cockatoo skins, 1 Cassowary skin, 2 Javan Gibbon skins, and many more.

"Roughly, we can conclude that many of these traders are in the upper level with a wide network, not small traders who specialize in certain species and connect directly to the poachers," said Swasti Prawidya Mukti, PROFAUNA's campaign officer.

"PROFAUNA appreciates all the efforts taken by concerning government institutions, but we are still far from breaking the chain of wildlife trade both domestic and international," added her.

Flying to Extinction

The most traded group of traded wild animal is the birds; this includes parrots, eagles, hornbills, and songbirds. Based on the volume, most of the traded birds are in the group of songbirds. In 2016, thousands of songbirds such as Shamas, Leafbirds, Robins, White-eyes, and many more.

"The popular hobby of keeping birds as pets and joining bird singing competition, especially in Java, makes this group of animal very vulnerable to poaching and trade," said Made Astuti, PROFAUNA's senior birdwatcher and researcher.

"If we visit bird markets in Java, many of the birds were caught and transported from Sumatra and Kalimantan because birds in Java is getting scarce," added Made, who has a thorough experience conducting researches and surveys on birds.

The same fate befalls other kinds of birds like eagles and parrots, which have been in peril for a long time.

Ekawati Ka'aba, the coordinator of PROFAUNA North Maluku Representatives, explained that since the 1990s until today parrot poaching and smuggling pattern has not changed much. The difference is, in some areas parrot populations have decline significantly or even extinct in the wild, so that poaching locations have shifted.

Law Enforcement

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has undergone many different ways to optimize the protection effort of Indonesia's natural resources, by reforming its institution. PROFAUNA took similar path by providing ways and opportunities for the public to file reports related to wildlife crime.

But till, PROFAUNA regrets the fact that judiciary bodies does not share similar concern, as can be seen from the sentences given by judges to wildlife criminals in 2016, most of which were far from just.

In 2016, at least 12 sentences were given to wildlife traders and smugglers. Among them was the aforementioned wildlife trader arrested in Singkawang, West Kalimantan. The convict named Aming was only given 9 months and 10 days of prison and IDR 50 million fines.

A 'hilarious' came from Surabaya Court, where judges sentenced Soeparli Djoko with 2 years of prison and IDR 100 million fines for smuggling 4,878 kg shark fins in February 2016. The trial made headlines because Soeparli danced around the courtroom after hearing his sentence.

"This is embarrassing, the convict blatantly insulted our justice system. If judges continue giving low sentences to wildlife traders and smugglers, deterrent effect will never become about," stated Bayu Sandi, PROFAUNA's campaign officer who takes great interest in marine conservation issues.

Public's Active Participation

With the current promiscuous condition of law enforcement in our country, do we still deserve to be called as a mega-biodiversity country?

"This is a question for ourselves. Nature conservation needs hard work and joint effort from many different parties, including the public," explained Rosek Nursahid, the founder of PROFAUNA.

Rosek added that during PROFAUNA's 22 years of work, PROFAUNA has been working with all walks of life. This makes PROFAUNA grow into the largest grassroots organization working for forest and wildlife protection issues.

PROFAUNA is widely known to collaborate with the general public, as proven by 102 reports filed by members of the general public regarding wildlife trade, mostly those in social media. In addition, PROFAUNA also works closely with the authorities, and directly took part in some operations and advocacy.

"PROFAUNA encourages everyone to take action to protect our forest and wildlife, so that we could rise again as a mega-biodiversity country who takes nature conservation as a serious concern," concluded Rosek.

© 2003 - ProFauna Indonesia

ProFauna Indonesia is an Indonesian society for the protection of
wild animals and their habitats