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Protected, globally threatened Sumatran Laughingthrushes Garrulax bicolor were among the species seized © FLIGHT

Protected, globally threatened Sumatran Laughingthrushes Garrulax bicolor were among the species seized © FLIGHT

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Published 6th April 2020

  Chinese 

Indonesian man convicted for smuggling protected songbirds

Lampung, Indonesia, 6th April 2020—An Indonesian court has sentenced a bird smuggler to over a year in jail—a departure from the usually low sentences meted out for wildlife crime involving birds. On 19th March 2020, Susanto Setiawan was sentenced to 14 months in prison and a fine of IDR10,000,000 (USD606) at the Tanjung Karang District Court, Lampung for transporting protected animals, violating Law No. 5 of 1990 concerning Conservation of Natural Resources and their Ecosystems.


Courts in Sumatra and Kalimantan have recently been imposing stiffer penalties for bird smugglers, with penalties exceeding one year prison sentences. Previously it was uncommon for wildlife smugglers to be given jail time exceeding a year, especially for lower profile species such as songbirds. 

The maximum penalty for poaching, smuggling or trading protected species under the Conservation Act of 1990 is imprisonment of five years and/or a fine of up to IDR100 million (USD7,519).

Thousands of birds are smuggled daily from Sumatra to Java and we will continue working with the Indonesian authorities to cripple the activities of those flouting the law. These confiscations are important, but we also need illegal traders to be prosecuted, and for the demand for wild songbirds to decrease."

–Marison Guciano, Executive Director of FLIGHT. On 9th November 2019, Susanto was intercepted while attempting to smuggle over 1,500 songbirds from South Sumatra to Lampung, two neighbouring provinces in Sumatra. The birds, like many others, were destined for Java. 

The seized birds had been packed into plastic crates and cardboard boxes and hidden in a car. Department of Natural Resources (BKSDA) officers in Lampung and North Lampung Police, assisted by Indonesian NGO FLIGHT, intercepted the car and arrested Susanto. 

The seizure included protected species such as Sumatran Laughingthrush Garrulax bicolor, Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati, Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon, Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis moluccensis and Common Green Magpie Cissa chinensis

“This is a positive outcome and a demonstration of Indonesia’s commitment in tackling wildlife crime. So many people have been apprehended for smuggling songbirds, but very few have been successfully charged for violating the law,” said Serene Chng, TRAFFIC Programme Officer in Southeast Asia. “This is a step in the right direction.”

Some 4,000 Greater Green Leafbirds were seized from 2018–2019 alone, while the Sumatran Laughingthrush is endemic to Sumatra and was recently assessed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species to be Endangered due to unregulated trapping.

Collaboration between FLIGHT, Quarantine, BKSDA, Environmental Law Enforcement Agency (GAKKUM) and Police, among others resulted in more than 40,000 birds seized in just 2019, which has seen some level of disruption in criminal activities of traders in Sumatra.

In 2018, Indonesia revised its protected species list which saw an expansion of protected species, from 667 to 921 animals and plants. This included a number of songbird species that were increasingly threatened by trade.