Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra

by Sumatran Orangutan Society
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra
Bags of pangolin scales confiscated by the team.
Bags of pangolin scales confiscated by the team.

Have you heard of pangolins? Sometimes known as scaly anteaters, these reptilian-looking mammals are found in Asia and Africa and are unfortunately often hunted and trafficked for the keratin scales which cover their bodies. 

The Sunda pangolin species is found in Sumatra and, like all the other species of pangolin, is nocturnal and feeds on ants and termites. Most pangolins captured from the wild, no matter where they are found, end up in China and Vietnam, where their scales are used as an ingredient in traditional medicine.

To prevent the continuing catastrophic decline in pangolins in the wild, it is vital that conservationists and law enforcement agencies gather information about trafficking routes and the people involved in this wildlife crime. Our team in Sumatra recently collaborated with local authorities to seize two suspects and the evidence of their involvement in trafficking pangolins - nine kilograms of scales. 

Tragically, it is too late to save the pangolins these scales came from, but by gaining information from the suspects and continuing to keep a close eye on potential trafficking hotspots, our team can be part of the ongoing effort to keep pangolins safe in the wild.

Thank you for supporting this work.

 

 

 

 

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Orangutans are protected by law in Indonesia and are also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This means that trading orangutans nationally (within Sumatra and Indonesia) or internationally is prohibited. However, despite this, hundreds of orangutans have been captured from the wild for the illegal pet trade over the last two decades. It is estimated, in fact, that more orangutans have been captured for the wild than all the other great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas). 

The numbers of orangutans being captured (and therefore lost to the wild) may not sound like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it represents over 1% of the total wild population - this means it is an unsustainable loss and presents a serious threat to the species. 

Just a few days ago, colleagues in Sumatra were called to confiscate a baby orangutan being kept as a pet in a village in Aceh province. Though this orangutan is now being cared for by experts at a rehabilitation centre, it would, of course, have been far better if it had never been removed from the wild in the first place. 

This is just one of many reasons why tackling the illegal wildlife trade is so important, and why we are so grateful for your donations.

Thank you.

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Despite the challenges presented by the COVID19 pandemic, the patrol teams managed to achieve a lot last year. Covering the Leuser and West Toba landscapes, they walked a total of 1,288km to protect 35,667 hectares of rainforest and its inhabitants.
Each patrol normally takes ten days of walking through deep forest, documenting biodiversity, wildlife and topography alongside any signs of threats to wildlife - logged trees, burnt patches of forest, snares or traps. This information is fed back to law enforcement authorities to assist their work in investigating the perpetrators of wildlife crime. In 2020, the patrol team provided data to help prosecutors in seven different cases - an amazing achievement in protecting Sumatra's forests and wild animals.
Thank you for continuing to walk alongside the patrol team as they carry out this challenging work.
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The Forest and Wildlife Protection Unit (ForWPU) are currently hard at work to solve two cases of illegal wildlife crime in Sumatra.

Firstly, the team recently began an investigation on an individual suspected of trading protected animals including sunbears (Helarctos malayanus). Along with the head of the Special Crime Unit from the North Sumatra Regional Police, they coordinated a meeting with the individual, posing as prospective buyers of a young sunbear. The bear was on sale for 24,000,000 IDR - £1264 or $1634 at today's exchange rate. Through their discussions, the team were able to ascertain that the sunbear was being kept by a Military Police Officer from the Indonesian Air Force, meaning careful plans now need to be made to confiscate the sunbear. The team hopes to be able to rescue the animal very soon.

Alongside the sunbear investigation, ForWPU are working on an investigation into three people suspected of trading Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris) body parts and skins. In a similar process to the sunbear case, the team arranged to meet one of the suspects at a restaurant to discuss buying a tiger skin. The Special Crime Unit were also in attendance and were able to apprehend the suspect, who is also known to be involved in other illegal wildlife trade networks. They are now gathering more evidence (having confiscated the tiger skin) and beginning legal proceedings against all the people involved.

As you can tell, a lot of time and funds go into tracing the illegal willdife trade in Sumatra. Every investigation is a piece of the bigger picture - stopping the illegal trade altogether - and we are so grateful for your support.

Thank you.

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The illegally-held orangutans.
The illegally-held orangutans.

Since the teams' inception in 2012, the Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit has confiscated 67 orangutans from the illegal wildlife trade. Most of these orangutans have been very young - either being kept as pets by people who are unaware that it is illegal to do so, or being prepared for sale on the wider illegal wildlife market.

In many cases, the HOCRU team is led and supported by the patrol teams in conducting confiscations of orangutans from the illegal trade. One such case happened recently, when the patrol team received information from the community in Simpang Rambung village about orangutans being offered for sale on social media. The team quickly responded and were able to confiscate two juvenile orangutans from a trader's house. While the team were working to safely confiscate the orangutans, the trader ran away. He was eventually persuaded to set up a meeting with the team, at which he admitted his participation in the illegal trade of two infant orangutans. He is now undergoing legal proceedings with the North Sumatra Police.

Orangutans have a very long inter-birth interval (8-10 years), so the loss of any individual to the wildlife trade has a potentially devastating effect on populations. Thanks to the patrol team, the two infants confiscated from Simpang Rambung village are now being rehabilitated at an expert facility and will be able to be released into the wild when they reach adulthood.

Thank you for supporting this vital work.

The orangutans were advertised for sale online.
The orangutans were advertised for sale online.

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Organization Information

Sumatran Orangutan Society

Location: Abingdon, Oxon - United Kingdom
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Twitter: @orangutansSOS
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Abingdon, Oxon United Kingdom
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