Jail and fine for Indonesian online trader offering Critically Endangered reptile
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, June 2020—An Indonesian court has convicted an online wildlife trader caught with over a dozen reptiles including a Critically Endangered turtle widely believed to be on the brink of extinction. Two Roti Island Snake-necked Turtles Chelodina mccordi were found in the trader’s possession. This rare species is found only on Rote Island, one of Indonesia’s southernmost islands. It became Critically Endangered in 2000, just six years after it was described as a new species, due to relentless collection for the pet trade.
This turtle was among several protected turtles and monitor lizards seized from Erick Chandra Sutedja’s animal trading business in West Jakarta and for which a court sentenced him to five months’ jail and IDR10,000,000 (approximately USD 680) in fines in June this year. He was arrested in February 2020.
Sutedja was found guilty of keeping, owning and maintaining protected wild animals in violation of Indonesia’s Act No. 5 (1990) Concerning the Conservation of Living Natural Resources and their Ecosystems.
Among other reptiles seized from him were two Endangered Pig-Nosed Turtles Carettochelys insculpta – another species imperiled by illegal trade. Less than two weeks ago, Indonesian authorities in Sulawesi seized 1,333 of these turtles that were destined for the illegal market, bringing the total seized since 2003 to more than 111,000 animals.
The remaining reptiles seized from Sutedja were three Black Tree Monitor Lizards Varanus beccari, two Argus Monitor Lizards Varanus panoptes and seven Mangrove Monitor Lizards Varanus indicus.
All the species seized are listed as protected under Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia Number P.106 of 2018. The court ordered for all the animals to be released into the wild.
According to publicly available court documents, Sutedja had been running his animal trade business for the past five years, even admitting to buying the seized animals for the purpose of trading or reselling them. The animals were traded online via Facebook.
Online, Sutedja was reputed to supply collectors with threatened and protected reptiles from around Southeast Asia, Australia and from as far away as the Galapagos.
“Cases like this tell illegal traders that they aren’t safe behind the cloak of anonymity the internet offers. They can be found and there will be consequences,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
While the penalty could have been higher, the conviction in itself an important development in Indonesia’s fight against wildlife cybercrime,” said Krishnasamy.
The fine meted out represents 10% of the maximum fine Under Act No. 5, which also allows for imprisonment of up to five years.
The Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle is among the 235 species currently recognized under the IUCN SSC Asian Species Action Partnership (ASAP), that aims to catalyse action for Critically Endangered species in Southeast Asia.