Tiger Poachers and Wildlife Traders Sentenced in Sumatra

Tiger poachers and wildlife traders sentenced in Sumatra

Source: Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program; Directorate General of Forest Protection & Nature Conservation - Indonesia; The Tiger Foundation & Sumatran Tiger Trust
Date: 9 August 2004

This week in Rengat town of Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia, five members of an illegal wildlife trade syndicate were convicted for poaching and illegal trade in the endangered Sumatran tiger. The defendants Sudirman, Mat Hakim, Rahmad Hidayat, Herman bin Jame and Chanal were sentenced to a total of six years in prison and given fines amounting to 70 million Rupiah (US$ 7,750). With this sentence a strong message is sent out to others involved in illegal wildlife activities across Indonesia.

According to Moh. Haryono, chief of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in central Sumatra, the court in Rengat has delivered a just sentence considering the seriousness and organised nature of the crime. “Among the perpetrators Mr. Sudirman in particular is a repeat offender, having previously poached a tiger from the park and escaped”. Haryono added that “the prosecution represents the first proper use of Conservation Law No. 5/1990 in this particular region of Sumatra.”

The tiger poaching and illegal trade network was uncovered by elaborate antipoaching and intelligence operations of the Department of Forestry and Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program, operating across Riau and Jambi provinces of Sumatra.

In January 2004 informants reported the death of two tigers in the national park. Investigations by local police, park rangers and Tiger Protection Units identified how tigers had been poisoned by local poachers and quickly sold on through a network of middle-men. Undercover work, involving informants posing as potential buyers, subsequently lead to the arrest of four more traders. Long-term intelligence suggests that at least 60 wild tigers have been sold through this network over the last 10 years.

Waldemar Hasiholan, manager of the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program, reported, “This success signifies the prosecution of suspects that have been active for many years, and is a momentous victory for the Department of Forestry’s Bukit Tigapuluh National Park management, local police, the justice department and STCP”. He went on to add that, “although ranger patrols and Tiger Protection Units have had an obvious deterrent effect on poachers, we recognise that effective intelligence and law enforcement is critical to reduce market demand by directly hitting trade at its roots. With that goal, nothing can be more effective than this kind of result”.

The prosecution occurs on the back of a 2004 report by TRAFFIC, which challenged the Government of Indonesia to crack down on illegal trade in Sumatran tigers and protect the remaining 400-500 wild individuals. “Let this result be evidence that Indonesia is committed to halting poaching and illegal trade of wildlife,” stated the Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation, Koes Saparjadi. ”All the recommendations made in the 2004 TRAFFIC report have been our official policy for years, and we take our responsibilities seriously.”

“Nobody is above the law, and we continue to implement a specialised program to tackle tiger and wildlife crime in accordance with recommendations made by the international CITES Standing Committee and its Tiger Mission,” added Daniel Sinaga, Tiger and Wildlife Crime advisor to STCP.

This novel strategy, led by the Department of Forestry’s Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation, with support from The Tiger Foundation (Canada), Sumatran Tiger Trust (UK) and ExxonMobil’s Save The Tiger Fund, involves close collaboration between wildlife and law enforcement agencies, intelligence gathering, a national database, and technical advice and training for prosecutors and justice departments in the handling of wildlife crime. The program represents a major breakthrough in bringing together both Governmental and non-governmental resources in a collaborative war against poachers and the black-market in wildlife products.

Testament to growing conservation awareness within the legal system, chief prosecutor of Rengat town in Riau province, Pangkat Purba, stated in reference to the recent prosecution that, “the heavy sentence was delivered with regards to the extremely endangered and protected status of the tiger in Indonesia”. He elaborated, “The example of the extinction of the Bali and Javan tigers is an important lesson for us all. We are concerned that the Sumatran tiger will suffer the same fate if we don’t consistently punish those responsible for its demise.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Koh Soegiyanto, the sixth defendant and alleged final buyer of the bones and pelts in Jambi city, is still awaiting conviction following provision of additional evidence relating to his involvement in the trade in pelts of the equally endangered clouded leopard.