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
Bear claw marks on a tree in Baharok
Bear claw marks on a tree in Baharok

What’s living in the forest?

Between April 16-25 the Forest Patrol and Wildlife Crime Unit team patrolled around Baharok resort. They patrolled 31.7 km of forest, covering a total of 2160 hectares.

They found a lot of exciting evidence of wildlife in the area, including two orangutan nests, many traces of deer and wild boar, and even signs of a tiger.

Between April 11-20, the team conducted a patrol in Cinta Raja and Sei Lepan, covering 28km of forest (1800 hectares). Here, they found elephant dung, bear tracks and a further orangutan nest, as well as traces of kuau (a threatened pheasant species known in English as a Great Argus) and Sumatran serow (a type of goat-antelope found only in Sumatra, peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand).

In Bekancan Resort at the end of April, the team found a very unusual plant – the bunga bangkai, which translates roughly as ‘corpse flower’ and is also known as the titan arum. The plant gets its name from the fact that its flower smells like rotting flesh, which attracts the beetle and fly species which pollinate it. The plant is endemic to Sumatra and is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants because of the deforestation threatening its habitat.

Human activity

Unfortunately, the team also found a lot of evidence of human activity in their patrol areas, including crops planted in the forest, and snares designed to capture birds. In Cinta Raja and Sei Lepan, the team came across a poacher’s camp, and found poisoned fish near a creek in the area. In all the areas patrolled, there was evidence of illegal cutting of trees, including stumps and processed timber. In Bekancan, there was even a landslide, caused by the erosion that comes about when too many trees are removed from the landscape.

Thank you

It’s thanks to you that the team can patrol large areas throughout the year, not only to observe human threats to the forest, but also to remove them. The snares found in the patrol areas in April were removed, and the illegal logging and poacher camp have been reported to the authorities. The team’s detailed notes on the biodiversity in the areas patrolled will enable ongoing monitoring and protection of these precious landscapes, ensuring that the orangutans, tigers, bears, birds and plants continue to have habitat in which they can thrive.

Deer footprint
Deer footprint
Evidence of illegal logging
Evidence of illegal logging
A poacher's shelter
A poacher's shelter
Removing a bird snare
Removing a bird snare
Titan arum
Titan arum

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Tiger parts for sale
Tiger parts for sale

Illegal Tiger Traders Arrested

In December 2017, the wildlife crime investigation team found a Facebook post by Ilyas Muhammad, which displayed a tiger skin. As a result, the team co-ordinated with the Law Enforcement department of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (Gakkum) Sumatra to plan a strategy to arrest Ilyas Muhammad, for illegally trading wildlife body parts.

After some undercover observation, the team together with Gakkum finally caught him red-handed on January 29th. The suspect had a tiger skin, along with other items, such as 2 tiger-leather waist straps, 2 wallets made of tiger skin, 1 tiger nail, and 1 leather bag made out of tiger skin. (see the attached picture). The case is going through the legal process and we should receive a hearing date soon.

A second trader offering a full tiger skin in Besitang sub-district was also arrested by Gakkum in Medan in January. While it is good that these crimes are being taken seriously, the fact that they are occurring so frequently causes concern for the future of the Sumatran tiger population.

Tiger poacher jailed

On January 4th 2018, tiger poacher Ismail Sembiring, who was found guilty in December, was sentenced to 2 years 3 months in prison as well as a fine of IDR 100,000,000

Investigation of Pangolin Trader in Padang Tualang

The team got information from the community in Padang Tualang, about a resident who makes a living from selling animals. The team traced the information and obtained his personal information, as well as investigating the claims. They are still gathering sufficient information to arrest him, but he is known for trading various species of snakes, monitor lizards, and pangolin.

During the investigation, the team obtained additional information about one of the local residents who up-grades air rifles and assembles other weapons for poachers. Most of the poachers around Bahorok appear to use his services.

Patrol

The team undertook extensive patrols over the long new year break to deter or capture poachers. They covered a total of 488.61 Km and covered over 5.600 Ha. During these patrols, the team found 16 nylon snares, evidence of hornbill paoching and evidence of illegal lopgging. They also found traces of deer, porcupine aswell as monitoring the biodiversity of the area.

Ilyas showing off his wares
Ilyas showing off his wares
Ismail awaiting sentencing
Ismail awaiting sentencing
Sling snare
Sling snare
Snares removed from forest
Snares removed from forest

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female tiger carcass found at Ismail's home
female tiger carcass found at Ismail's home

A tiger poacher, Ismail Sembiring, who was arrested along with a carcass of a female Sumatran tiger (Phantera Tigris Sumatrae) in August 2017, was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment on January 4th. He was also fined $7500, which is the maximum fine under the law. This represents a huge victory for those of us working to tackle wildlife crime in Sumatra and demonstrates that the judiciary are starting to treat these crimes with the seriousness they deserve. In 2017, OIC uncovered 15 serious forest crimes. We hope that this sentence will act as a deterrent to other potential poachers.

Asked for comment after the ruling, Ismail expressed his regret and said he did not mean to trap a tiger. “I only meant to catch wild boars, but one of my snares caught the tiger,” he said. “I barely had the chance to offer it for sale when I was arrested. I will never do it again.”

Police arrested Ismail last August and seized the body of the tiger from his home in Langkat district, North Sumatra province.

The Leuser ecosystem is one of the last refuges of the Sumatran rhino and tiger, and the only place on Earth where these two rare species coexist alongside the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) and elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus). All four species are categorized as Critically Endangered, or just a step away from being extinct in the wild.

Tigers and rhinos are frequently targeted by poachers, their body parts sold for use in traditional Chinese medicine and for ornamental uses.

The Indonesian government has rolled out policies to strengthen existing protections for these species, but critics say the measures and their lax enforcement has failed to get to the root of the problem.

The national parliament is currently drafting a bill that would strengthen the existing 1990 legislation on natural resources conservation, following mounting calls from conservationists who are seeking tougher sentences for offenders and an expanded definition of wildlife trade to include the growing online commerce in animals and animal parts.

We thought you would like to know about this development which your funds have helped make possible. Thank you. Let's hope the sentence acts as a dterrent for other poachers.

Ismail goes to jail by Ayat S. Karokaro/Mongabay
Ismail goes to jail by Ayat S. Karokaro/Mongabay

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Sling snare
Sling snare

The Forest patrol unit aims to prevent, tackle and prosecute wildlife crime, as well as to record sightings of flora and fauna which are under threat.

The detailed findings of the results of our patrols are at the bottom of this report. 

Highlights however are:

  • We heard a tiger!
  • The team destroyed 54 snares. That's 54 fewer animals who will get trapped in these barbaric traps
  • A tiger poacher went to court and we hope he will get a 3 year prison sentence
  • The team stopped forest destruction for an illegal corn-growing initiative

In addition to the above, we also

  • observed illegal logging and encroachment in Sei minyak, Tower and Karo villages.
  • received information about a group of people calling themselves the Pratama Cooperative, who held a meeting in the former Sekoci Resort office. They planned to grow corn inside the Gunung Leuser National Park (GNLP) area, behind the former Sekoci resort and up to Lapangan Tembak. Their activities were involving encroachers under the coordination of Hasan Sitepu. They claimed they had a legal permit to cultivate an area of 3,000 ha, land belonging previously to PT Multi Karya Jaya (MKJ). Their claim was proven untrue. An Officer from GLNP held a talk with the Chairman of Pratama Cooperative, and the plan to cultivate the corn was cancelled.
  • held an important coordination meeting to prepare for joint operations with GLNP concerning illegal logging at the Sekoci resort. Among the topics that were discussed in the meeting include: logistics, equipment, team division of work and security.
  • evaluated all completed activities, including looking at personnel security threats, such as intimidation, physical threats, social threats, and potential legal complaints. These are genuine occurrences for our patrol staff, one of the reasons why their anonymity is so closely guarded.
  • The first trial for tiger poaching was conducted on 31st October against Ismail, and he was convicted. On December 12, Ismail was brought in front of the court for the hearing, where prosecutors pushed for a 3 year sentence. Ismail appealed for leniency, admitting his mistakes. The final sentencing is scheduled for January 4, 2018. Even the fact that this case is progressing through a proper court is an important step in the fight against poaching of critically endangered animals within Leuser. We hope the sentence will be severe and widely publicized to act as a deterrent to other poachers.
  • An Investigator from Langkat Police resort, who was working on the case of illegal logging in Sei Lepan coordinated with our expert witness regarding a permit to load the logs.
  • The team also coordinated with Law Enforcement Department at Ministry of Environmental and Forestry regarding the case of slow lorris trafficker, namely Poniman, who has been sentenced to two years in prison. 

Patrol results in more detail:

The Forest Wildlife Patrol Unit uses the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) application. It is specifically designed to help patrols in conservation areas. The team also uses a grid system established by Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP) authority.  

The aims of the project are to:

  • Observe, and prevent human activities, such as illegal logging, hunting, encroachment and habitat change,
  • Observe and record Flora and Fauna, such as tracks, sounds, dung and nests
  • Observe and record features, such as boundary markers, hot springs, waterfalls etc.

From September to November patrol activity has covered total area of  21.600 Ha and 139,30 Km in Resort of Sekoci and Bahorok, both are inside GLNP area.

Human activities

  • 54 sling snares & nylon snares found and destroyed
  • Logs, rods, frames found, confiscated and destroyed
  • Timber beams destroyed and processed wood destroyed
  • Confiscated 1 chainsaw

Flora and Fauna:

  • heard tiger roar (one time), found 1 elephant dung, and 1 pig carcass                                                                                                                                    

Features found:

  • The team found four boundary markers

 

As you can see from the above, our informal networks and links with villagers are as important, if not more so, than the patrols themselves. But together they help to prevent crimes against wildlife and help to ensure a safer future for wildlife in the Leuser Ecosystem. Thank you for your support. 

The content for this report was provided by Syufra Malina, Communication & Reporting Manager YOSL-OIC.  

If you are thinking of donating, then any funds given before December 31st 2017 will help us access match-funding from GlobalGiving. 

Ismail admits tiger poaching and awaits sentence
Ismail admits tiger poaching and awaits sentence

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Destroying illegal rubber trees
Destroying illegal rubber trees

Wildlife Patrols near Bukit Lawang

Over the last three months, the wildlife patrol team have been busy – covering over 180km and 12,000 hectares with their patrols.

 

They have visited areas around Sei Betung-Sekoci, Baharok near Bukit Lawang, and Trenggulun. Where possible, these patrols have also involved National park rangers and local community members,.

 

In that time, they found 22 human threats to the forest, including poaching, illegal fishing, illegal logging, eight illegal fisherman fishing in Besitang river, processed logs waiting for transportation, a deer poacher and a bird poacher.

 

They have confiscated illegal timber, destroyed 6 poaching camps, destroyed 6 snares, torn down 4 hectares of illegal rubber plantations and arrested a poacher,

 

There are still 2 hectares of illegal rubber plantation under investigation, which are due to be destroyed at the next patrol.

 

On a more positive note, the team saw plenty of signs of wildlife including traces of deer, serow, sunbear, elephants, one old orangutan’s nest, 1 boar’s nest. Excitingly they also saw 3 traces of Sumatran tiger.

 

This is a note about one of the Wildlife Patrol team members and why he is so passionate about his work:

 

Guarding Leuser Forests for My Children

Joe likes extreme sport and playing musical instruments as a hobby. Now he is doing what he is passionate about: forest patrol. Joe is not his real name. Working in the Forest Wildlife Patrol Unit means his identity has to remain secret from the public. Joe used to work with the Search and Rescue (SAR) unit in North Sumatra before joining OIC’s Patrol Unit. This year is the fourth year working with the team and his passion to guard wildlife in the Leuser Ecosystem grows every day.  

Patrolling may sound routine, but in reality, it is very dynamic. Joe and the team have to develop strategies and tactics to adapt to any situation happening during the patrol. On top of that, they need to keeping the team focused and solid, being aware of any kind of threats which may reveal their identity. Wildlife trafficking & illegal logging is a big, dirty business conducted by people who would not be afraid to harm anyone standing in their way.   

“Everything I have experienced in my job means a lot to me, it makes me mature in my process of thinking,” he added. He considers himself extremely lucky to have the forest as his working space, breathing fresh unpolluted air, and having the various animal sounds, insects and trees, as his goodnight lullaby.

Trees being cut and wild life being poached are nightmares to him, as well as to Indonesia and the planet at large. Every patrol means spending at least 10 days away from his family, providing an additional challenge for Joe.

“Of course, I miss my wife and kids while I am in the forest, but guarding the forest is also for the sake of future generations, including my children.”

 

 

Destroying wildlife snare
Destroying wildlife snare

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Organization Information

Sumatran Orangutan Society

Location: Abingdon, Oxon - United Kingdom
Website:
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Twitter: @orangutansSOS
Project Leader:
Lucy Radford
Abingdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom
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