WWF calls for maximum penalty for suspected tiger smuggler

EoF News / 14 August 2011

WWF Press Release – As a suspected tiger smuggler was brought to district court in West Sumatra, Indonesia last week, WWF Indonesia has encouraged the authorities to hand down a maximum sentence for conviction.

The suspect, a 49 year-old male, was brought to court for allegedly breaking Indonesian law in keeping, transporting and trading endangered species. He was arrested in West Sumatra in March of this year following a three-day investigation by the Natural Resource Conservation Agency in Riau and West Sumatra Province (BKSDA), with support from WWF Indonesia’s Tiger Protection Unit. The arrest was made after the seizure of an adult male tiger skin. The tiger was believed to have been poisoned inside or near a wildlife reserve in Sumatra’s Riau Province. “WWF highly appreciates the District Court and District Attorney bringing this case to law” said Anwar Purwoto, Director of the Forest, Fresh Water and Species Program at WWF-Indonesia. “We also strongly support a clean trial in this case, and are confident the process will add to global efforts for fighting wildlife crime.” The Indonesia law on biodiversity conservation and ecosystems states that convicted Sumatran tiger poachers and traders are subject to a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of 100 million Indonesian rupiah (USD$ 10,000).

“An appropriate punishment is expected to help create a deterrent effect for those committing wildlife crimes in Indonesia, particularly involving a critically endangered species,” said Anwar. “WWF calls on those found guilty of killing tigers to receive the maximum penalty.”

In 2009, observers were shocked when poachers convicted of killing three tigers in Riau Province were given a light penalty of only one year in prison and a fine of two million rupiah (USD$ 200). “Illegal wildlife trading is a big loss to our country,” said Osmantri, Coordinator for WWF-Indonesia’s Tiger Protection Unit. “We must insist this case sets an example so that we can continue to dismantle the illegal tiger trade syndicate and arrest other players.” The Sumatran tiger is the only subspecies of the big cat left in Indonesia after the country’s Javan and Bali subspecies went extinct in the 20th century. It is estimated that only 400 Sumatran tigers survive in the wild. In November 2010 at the St. Petersburg, Russia International Tiger Forum, or Tiger Summit, Indonesia signed onto the Global Tiger Recover Programme, a groundbreaking agreement with the 13 remaining tiger range countries to save the big cat and double its numbers in the wild by 2022.