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.
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.
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.
It is easy to think of deforestation in Sumatra as a process brought about by bulldozers owned by large companies, but that's only part of the story. Illegal logging on a small scale is unfortunately still common in some areas, and tackling it is one of the patrol team's most important jobs. Though small-scale operations don't clear huge swathes of forest in a matter of days, they all add up and cause the forest to become fragmented, making it harder for orangutans and other wildlife to use this vital habitat.
One recent example is illegal logging activity in Gunung Leuser National Park. The logger is a local farmer who was working alongside several other people to cut down Meranti batu (Shorea uliginosa Foxw, a species classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN), process the timber and transport it out of the park in order to sell it. The patrol team came across the processed timber while it was still inside the park, on one of their routine patrol hikes, once again showing how important it is for the team to keep working consistently.
Thank you for donating to this project and keeping the team out on patrol. You are making a difference.
The investigations division of the patrol team recently received a report from community members about an illegal zoo in North Padang Lawas. The team visited the zoo and found over 20 protected and endangered species, including:
A Sumatran orangutan (Critically Endangered)
Citron-crested cockatoo (Critically Endangered)
A sunbear (Vulnerable)
Sambar deer (Vulnerable)
Komodo dragons (Vulnerable)
and many more - all in inappropriate enclosures and being kept in poor conditions.
Aided by the police, the team questioned zoo staff and found that the zoo did not have a legal permit as a conservation institution. This meant that despite having some legal documents allowing them to undertake animal care, the zoo is not allowed to keep protected wildlife. The police and the forestry authorities therefore confiscated all the animals, and they are now in the care of properly documented institutions including the Batu Mbelin rehabiliation centre just outside Medan. Legal proceedings are now taking place under the care of the Indonesian National Police Special Crime Unit to ensure the owners of the zoo cannot repeat this offence in the future.
Thank you for supporting our Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra project and helping us keep Sumatra's wild mammals, birds and reptiles safe.
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