Farouk Arnaz &Fidelis E. Satriastanti
Police have vowed to expand their probe into a wildlife poaching and trade syndicate after arresting a Depok resident in possession of dozens of stuffed rare animals and pelts.
Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar, a National Police spokesman, said on Wednesday that the suspect, identified only as Feri, was arrested at his home on Tuesday afternoon and was believed to be a taxidermist.
“The investigation is still continuing into how he obtained all the pelts and animal parts and where he planned to sell them,” he said.
“We suspect this was just part of an organized syndicate. We’re certain the suspect isn’t the only one involved.”
Boy said that evidence seized from Feri’s house included several stuffed animals, including 14 tigers, two leopards, one clouded leopard, a lion, three bears and a tapir. There were also two sacks full of tiger pelts, as well as a stuffed tiger head and four deer heads.
The Sumatran tiger and Javan leopard are classified as critically endangered species, one step away from being extinct in the wild. Trading in or possession of these protected animals or their parts is a criminal offense.
Lions are not native to Indonesia, while it was not immediately clear what bear species was seized from Feri’s house.
A source at the National Police directorate of special crimes told the Jakarta Globe that Feri was known to sell stuffed animals and their pelts for tens of millions of rupiah.
“He bought them from other traders, hunters or [forest] residents,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“ He said he got most of them from Sumatra, and we’re currently looking into his statements.”
Despite the large collection, Feri faces just one count of possession of protected animal parts under the 1990 Natural Resources Conservation Law, for which he could get up to five years in prison and up to Rp 100 million ($10,600) in fines.
The arrest and seizure came a day after Greenpeace Indonesia reported that the Sumatran tiger, one of the most threatened of the remaining six tiger subspecies in the world, was disappearing from the wild at a rate of around 51 animals a year.
Agussetia Sitepu, head of conservation at the Kerinci Seblat National Park in western Sumatra, one of the last remaining tiger habitats, acknowledged that poaching remained the biggest threat to the survival of Indonesia’s last tiger species.
He said that the poaching of tigers inside the ostensibly protected national park, whether captured alive or shot dead, remained rampant, as evidenced by the continued arrests of poachers by local police and park officials.
He added it was “no secret” that Indonesia had become one of the major sources of tiger parts and pelts for the illegal international trade in animal parts.
On Monday, Harimau Kita, a Sumatran tiger conservation forum, said that the number of tigers in the wild might actually be higher than first thought.
It said data extrapolated from camera traps suggested there were at least 600 Sumatran tigers in the wild, higher than the estimate of between 400 and 500 based on a 1994 report.
Additional reporting from Antara