The Jakarta Post
Police have apprehended three members of a crime ring allegedly involved in the illegal trade of Sumatran tiger organs in Pasir Penyu district, Indragiri Hulu regency, Riau.
Riau Police chief Insp. Gen. Agung Setya Imam Effendi said the police had named three suspects – a 45-year-old Jambi local, 57-year-old North Sumatra native and and 43-year-old Ingragiri Hulu resident.
“The three of them acted as couriers who transported tiger organs from Jambi to Indragiri Hulu,” Agung said in a statement on Sunday.
The investigators had tracked down and monitored the suspects’ activities since Friday to follow up on a report regarding tiger organ trafficking from Muara Tebo in Jambi to Riau, he said.
“Our investigation found that [the suspects] had been transporting the tiger organs in a minibus. We arrested the three suspects and seized several pieces of evidence including one dried tiger hide, four fangs and one sack of bones on Jl. Arjuna, Candi Rejo subdistrict, on Saturday at around 11 a.m.,” Agung said, adding that the suspects were detained at the Riau Police headquarters along with the evidence.
Riau Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Sunarto said that, during the questioning, the suspects said that they had been paid by an individual identified only as AT to transport the animal body parts to another individual identified as HN in Air Molek subdistrict.
“[The suspects] were paid Rp 2 million [US$164.14] each. HN and AT have been added to Riau Police’s most-wanted list,” Sunarto said.
He said the recent boom in the illegal tiger skin and organ trade could be attributed to the growing demand for such items in the black market.
According to the police’s investigation, a single tiger hide could sell for between Rp 30 million and Rp 80 million, while tiger bones could sell for Rp 2 million per kilogram and fangs for Rp 500,000 to Rp 1 million each, Sunarto said.
“The surge in black market prices was likely the main reason why these smugglers dared to commit such crimes. As a member of a larger international community, Indonesia has committed to putting an end to illegal tiger organ trade, given that the animals are facing extinction,” he said, adding that the Riau Police would keep tracing the movements of the larger crime syndicate involved in the illicit business.
The government has recently stepped up its efforts to crack down on groups involved in the illegal trade of tiger organs across Riau.
A joint team comprising personnel from the Environment and Forestry Ministry and the National Police tracked down and subsequently arrested suspected poachers and traders targeting Sumatran tigers and confiscated four fetuses of the endangered species as well as tiger hides in the province last December.
According to an official estimate from the Environment and Forestry Ministry, as of last December, the Sumatran tiger population stands at no more than 600 because of a loss of habitat and poaching.
Meanwhile, a report in Nature Communications estimated there were 618 adults in 2012, a 20 percent drop from 742 in 2000. (rfa)