Residents of Melung village in Indonesia had to use force to intimidate a would-be eagle trafficker into giving up the bird.
It isn’t the first time residents have acted to protect biodiversity in their territory.
The forests of Melung are home to a variety of endangered species, such as the Javan leopard and the silvery gibbon.
A crested serpent eagle was saved from being trafficked on Sunday by residents of Melung, a village on the slopes of the volcanic Mount Slamet in Indonesia’s Central Java province.
Upon hearing a man identified as A arranging to sell the Spilornis cheela bido by phone, villagers intervened to try to talk him down. They explained that trafficking protected species is prohibited by Indonesian law and punishable by five years imprisonment and a 100 million rupiah ($7,300) fine.
But A remained determined to sell the eagle, even turning violent and emotional, at one point attacking the others with a block of wood.
Dozens of villagers surrounded A and ultimately threatened that if he didn’t back down, they would bring him to the police station.
“Our explanation about the law didn’t even enter his mind. He wasn’t afraid of criminal threats,” Margino, one of those who intervened, told Mongabay.
“We had to use force to intimidate him. Finally he handed over the eagle and went home empty-handed.”
The villagers released the eagle into the wild near the Melung forest. Although it initially appeared to have difficulty flying, after a few minutes it was able to soar into the air.
This isn’t the first time Melung residents have acted in support of conservation laws. Once, they expelled a pellet gun enthusiast who had come to practice in the village forest.
Locals believe that if they protect nature, it will respond with abundant blessings for life, according to Khoerudin, the village chief.
“The village government strongly supports the protection of existing natural resources, both biological and nonbiological,” he told Mongabay. “We want our village to be a natural laboratory for research, for the people’s well-being.”
The forests of Melung are home to a variety of endangered species, including the Javan hawk-eagle (Nisaetus bartelsi), silvery gibbon (Hylobates moloch), Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas) and Javan fuscous leaf monkey (Presbytis fredericae).
The Biodiversity Society runs a wildlife monitoring initiative with the community. “The goal is to turn communities on the edge of the forest into frontline protectors of wildlife therein,” the society’s Apris Nur Rakhmadani said. “Without their active involvement, the whole effort will be in vain.”
Apris gave a thumbs-up to the villagers who derailed the eagle transaction.
“As long as it’s not anarchy, actions of intimidation by the community against perpetrators of wildlife crime is often more effective. The eagle survived, the problem is finished.”
Hariyawan A. Wahyudi. “Hebat..! Warga Lereng Slamet Gagalkan Transaksi Elang di Desanya.” Mongabay-Indonesia. 24 November 2015.