Indonesia Punishes Wildlife Traffickers

From the jungles of Borneo to the markets of Jakarta, illegal wildlife trafficking in Indonesia is growing. But recent jail sentences might change that.

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Indonesia has more unique species of mammals, birds, and butterflies than any other country in the world. This diversity has made it a hot-spot for illegal wildlife trafficking, which loses the country an estimated 80 million dollars a year.

The further Indonesia’s exotic species are removed from their habitat, the more valuable they become. An orangutan for example, which is only found on two islands in the world, can be purchased for five dollars in Borneo, but can sell for over $10,000 once it leaves the country. Until now, the weak threat of law enforcement has done little to deter traffickers from the lure of these high profits. Even though endangered species are sold in broad daylight at Jakarta’s animal markets, arrests are infrequent. But a pair of recent prosecutions could be a sign that Indonesia is stepping up their fight against illegal animal trafficking.

Only two wildlife traders have been successfully imprisoned in Indonesia. The first in 2010, and more recently in February of this year, when a 26-year-old man from Sumatra was given seven months in jail for trying to sell an Orangutan. The Wildlife Conservation Society, an American organization with a crimes unit in Jakarta, assisted with the crime investigation that lead to his arrest.

With cameras hidden in watches and keys, I followed a WCS undercover investigator to Jakarta’s largest animal market where he spotted a number of protected species.