Made Arya Kencana
Denpasar. Authorities in Bali closed an illegal crocodile breeding ground and tourist spot on the resort island, and removed 72 adult crocodiles from the premises on Wednesday.
The Provincial Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) said the Taman Buaya and Reptil Indonesia Jaya Park in the Mengwi area of the Badung district was operating without a license despite the fact that they were breeding rare species of crocodiles.
Most of the crocodiles removed from the facility were saltwater crocodiles, the largest reptile alive today, and New Guinea crocodiles.
The park also harbored false gharials, freshwater crocodiles that are considered endangered by some conservation groups.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) included the species in its Appendix I, meaning there are only about 1,200 surviving in the wild and are therefore endangered.
“The location has been temporarily closed,” Bali Police special crimes chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Tri Kuncoro said, adding that the park’s owner, Suharta Arifin, had been declared as a suspect.
Suharta is accused of violating the 1999 Law on Natural Resources and Ecosystem, and faces a maximum prison term of five years and Rp 100 million ($10,400) fine.
BKSDA Bali chief Sumarsono said his office had twice issued warning letters to the park, established in 1995, saying that it needed a special conservation permit to host and breed endangered species.
“But there was never any response and so we had to take this action,” he said.
“The crocodiles were treated inhumanely. A number of them are injured. We suspect something is going on, especially with us finding a crocodile skeleton and all,” Sumarsono said, adding that the 72 animals were what remained of a total of 318 crocodiles sent from Jakarta.
The BKSDA official said that in addition to failing to provide decent living conditions for the reptiles, the park also did not meet safety standards for visitors.
“The fences are no longer strong because they’re basically only wires fastened to small tree trunks. That may endanger visitors.”