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As tigers dwindle, Indonesia takes aim at poaching ring

The tiger bones confiscated by law enforcers. Image courtesy of the forestry ministry.

  • Indonesian officials recently confiscated three tiger skins from a man in Sumatra.
  • They believe the perpetrator is connected to a larger ring of wildlife traffickers.

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Law enforcers are working to disrupt a wildlife trafficking ring connected to a man arrested last month with the skins and bones of three Sumatran tigers, a critically endangered species of which only a few hundred remain in the wild, the nation’s forestry ministry announced last week.

Authorities also confiscated 9 kilograms of pangolin scales from the man, identified as AS.

“To stop the illegal trade in live animals and their body parts, what must be pursued is the financier or the main buyer,” said Subhan, the head of the North Sumatra office of the ministry’s law enforcement division.

“But dismantling all of this is not an easy matter. Their network is quite strong.”

The tiger skins confiscated by authorities last month. Image courtesy of the forestry ministry.

One of Indonesia’s iconic species, the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) has struggled to survive amid the destruction of its forest habitat, which has been widely cleared for development, and the onslaught of poachers, who seek the animal’s bones, skin, claws, teeth, blood and more for use in traditional medicines.

A 2015 forestry ministry survey found that only 200 tigers remain in the Leuser Ecosystem, which spans the provinces of North Sumatra and Aceh.

In just one of many recent incidents, a mother tiger and her two cubs were found dead in a snare trap in Aceh in August.

“The main buyers of animal parts are very smart and difficult to detect,” said Panut Hadisiswoyo, the head of the Orangutan Information Network, an NGO that combats wildlife trafficking.

“They don’t involve themselves directly, instead using intermediaries who are very professional.”

AS faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of 100 million rupiah ($7,000) under the 1990 Conservation Law. His case was transferred to the Aceh High Prosecutor’s Office.

Separately, police in Aceh said earlier this month that they had arrested 11 men in connection with the killing of five elephants in January 2020. One of them, Edi Murdani, is a prominent wildlife trafficker who was previously imprisoned for a year and a half over his role in a tiger and pangolin trading scheme.

BannerThe tiger bones confiscated by authorities last month. Image courtesy of the forestry ministry.

This story was first reported by Mongabay’s Indonesia team and published here on our Indonesian site on Sept. 24, 2021.

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