National

Police, military in wildlife
trade: Conservationists

ENDANGERED: A Sumatran tiger wanders around at the National Safari Park in Bogor, West Java. The park is home to many endangered animals, including a pair of Sumatran tigers. It also functions as a breeding center for endangered species. (JP/P.J.Leo)
ENDANGERED: A Sumatran tiger wanders around at the National Safari Park in Bogor, West Java. The park is home to many endangered animals, including a pair of Sumatran tigers. It also functions as a breeding center for endangered species. (JP/P.J.Leo)

Non-governmental organizations have accused the police and military of systematic involvement in illegal trading of endangered species in northern Sumatra.

They said that police and military officers were involved in the transportation of animals such as the Sumatran tiger and anteater found in protected forests in Riau, North Sumatra and Aceh, via Medan and on to other countries.

A. Ridho, a spokesman for the NGOs -- the International Leuser Foundation, Flora Fauna International, Leuser Ecosystem Foundation, Conservation International and Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program -- said that transporting the animals was impossible without escort by security authorities.

He mentioned the arrest last week of an Army sergeant major in Tiga Binanga, Karo regency, while escorting a consignment of Sumatran tiger skins to Medan, believed to be poached from the Leuser National Park in Aceh.

"Investigating police said the tiger skins were to be supplied to a local trader in Tiga Binanga for Rp 13 million each," he said, but this was foiled by local police with help from the general public.

Ridho added that NGOs have detected the long-term involvement of security officers in the illegal trade. "But it has been very difficult to arrest them because they are powerful," he said.

He said the Sumatran tiger was found in the Leuser National Park but the population has drastically fallen.

He said the seaports of Belawan and Tanjung Balai were believed to be used to take tiger skins and parts out of the country to the international market.

Fitri, a staff member of the Natural Resources Conservation Center, agreed and said there were many hidden tracks in Belawan and Tanjung Balai which could be used to bring the endangered tigers to Malaysia and Singapore.

The intensive poaching of endangered species in Sumatra is prompted by high demand in the international market, Fitri said, "And we are running short of staff to supervise the protected forests which have been their habitats."

WWF has frequently reported on the prevalent poaching of the Sumatran tiger to the annual meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, representing key wildlife protection stakeholders, but the trade has persisted due to increased demand in Southeast Asia for skins and parts.

It is thought that at least 66 Sumatran tigers have been killed in the last two years.

The tiger trade is flourishing in countries like Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. Local laws have been established to protect the animals but are not effectively enforced, the WWF said.

Over the past 100 years, tiger numbers have dwindled. At the start of the 20th century more than 100,000 wild tigers roamed the Earth. Now with poaching decimating their numbers and extensive logging destroying their habitat, fewer than 7,500 remain. Environmentalists fear that by the end of this century, no tigers will remain in the wild.

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