Bird Smuggler Busted in Indonesia
A smuggler using a public bus to transport a veritable aviary of rare birds for the illegal pet trade was recently arrested by Indonesian authorities, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The arrest was carried out by the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) in Lampung, Sumatra, Indonesia on December 11, 2011, and resulted in the confiscation of more than 20 protected birds, including cockatoos, parrots, peafowl, birds of paradise, and other species. The enforcement operation was a joint collaboration between the BKSDA, WCS’s Wildlife Crime Unit, and the Anti Wildlife Trade Forum.
“We applaud the government of Indonesia for its commitment in stopping illegal wildlife trade within its borders,” said Joe Walston, Director of WCS’s Asia Program. “This arrest is the latest in a series of efforts by the Natural Resources Conservation Agency to curtail a significant threat to the country’s wildlife, in this case a number of protected bird species.
The smuggler, who was arrested on a bus traveling between the capital city of Jakarta and Medan in northern Sumatra, was tracked by BKSDA and the Wildlife Crime Unit from Bakauheni Seaport, a main transit point between the islands of Sumatra and Java. The waterway between the two islands—known as the Sunda Strait—is a main smuggling route for transporting illegal wildlife, much of which occurs on the hundreds of ferries that ply the strait.
“We believe that protected wildlife from eastern Indonesia is currently being smuggled abroad via Medan,” said Mr. Darori, the Director General Forest Protection and Natural Conservation, Ministry of Forestry. “The smugglers are trying to find alternative routes since both the seaport and airport in Jakarta are strongly monitored and protected by our officers.”
The confiscated birds—stowed on the bus in several baskets and cages—included endangered green peafowls and chattering lories, a species classified as vulnerable. The enforcement team also recovered palm cockatoos and lesser birds-of-paradise, both listed as priority species by Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. Along with habitat destruction and conversion, the domestic and international pet trade is one of the major threats to bird populations in Indonesia.
WCS’s Wildlife Crime Unit estimated that the total economic loss for the birds on the international market could be as much as $50,000; a palm cockatoo could fetch as much as $15,000 on the international market.
Dr. Noviar Andayani, WCS Indonesia Country Director, said: “This case demonstrates the seriousness of the illegal wildlife trade and its impact on species conservation on the ground. As the smugglers have become more innovative in their approaches, it is important for all levels of society to collaborate in the fight against illegal wildlife trade.”
WCS created the Wildlife Crimes Unit in 2003 for the purpose of providing data and technical advice to law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes. The unit also works to raise community awareness of prohibitions against wildlife trade. This work is supported by the Multinational Species Conservation Fund of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.