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Wednesday
Jun042008

Authorities act against Tiger poachers in Sumatra

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Indonesian police have arrested suspects allegedly in possession of Sumatran Tiger skins. Click photo to enlarge © Mike Griffiths / WWF-Canon  
Cambridge, UK, 4 June 2008—An Indonesian sergeant major and three other suspects have been arrested by local police as they escorted a consignment of Sumatran Tiger skins to Medan, the capital of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The Tigers were believed to have been poached in Leuser National Park, Aceh Province. In a separate event,  two people were arrested in North Sumatra on 3 June for trading stuffed Sumatran Tiger cubs, also believed to have originated in Leuser.

Earlier this year, a TRAFFIC report identified Medan as a hub for the illegal sale of Tiger parts in Sumatra after surveys found body parts representing at least 23 Tigers on sale in 28 cities and towns across the island.

The arrest of the sergeant major supports a recent claim by a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that police and military officers were involved in the systematic illegal export of threatened wildlife, including Sumatran Tigers and pangolins, from Sumatra, via Medan and the seaports of Belawan and Tanjung Balai.

The NGO coalition—the International Leuser Foundation, Flora Fauna International, Leuser Ecosystem Foundation, Conservation International and the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program—said that transporting the animals was impossible without a security authorities escort.

According to A Ridho, a coalition spokesman, NGOs had noted the long-term involvement of security officers in illegal wildlife trade, adding that it had been difficult to arrest them because of their powerful influence.

Azrina Abdullah, Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, commented "We congratulate the Sumatran police, Ministry of Forestry and NGOs who helped bring about this arrest."

"Unless urgent action is taken now to stop the illegal poaching of Tigers, there is no doubt Sumatra—and with it Indonesia—will lose their last Tigers in a matter of years. The seriousness of the situation cannot be overstated."

In Indonesia, wild tigers are today found only in Sumatra, following the extinction of the Bali Tiger and the Javan Tiger last century, but their numbers are small and declining, currently estimated as fewer than 400 to 500 individuals.

Recently, Tiger poaching operations appear to be moving away from southern Sumatra following joint operations between enforcement agencies and NGOs attempting to curb illegal wildlife trafficking.

"Illegal wildlife traffickers...are starting to move from Lampung to Northern Sumatra...because they've found the province is no longer safe for poaching," said Dwi Nugroho Adiasto, the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) co-ordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Unit (WCU).

Dwi added: "The Forestry Ministry has declared an all out battle against illegal trade in protected wildlife nationwide this year, which is in line with the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network treaty."


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