The Criminal Investigation Division of the Indonesian National Police and the WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit (WCU) announced today an enforcement action against a major tiger skin trader and an intermediary who offered tiger skin products to potential buyers. Both were  arrested in Jakarta, on December 11, 2015. 

The trader has been selling tiger skin products and other protected wildlife to suppliers and buyers located in Java, Bali, and Sumatra. He is known as a reptile skin (crocodile and snake) craftsman, but was also selling products made from protected wildlife such as tiger and leopard. WCU identified the selling of tiger skins through online research and found the suspect selling wallets made from tiger skins.

The trader’s operation involved a large number of protected wildlife items including four complete tiger skins, seven tiger feet, two tiger tails, one kg of tiger bone, and accessories made from tiger skin such as 13 tiger skin wallets. Other illegal wildlife items included a stuffed Hawksbill sea turtle, stuffed crocodile head, a helmeted hornbill casque, a sea turtle carapace, seven crocodile skins, and two bear fangs.

A rhino horn was also found at the crime scene, and the police will check its DNA to determine its authenticity.  

The trader chose specific parts of complete tiger skins to create 10-15 wallets and confessed to using 11 full tiger skins in the past year. The skin from the tiger’s head is used for Reog Ponorogo—a traditional dance from East Java— which features a tiger mask made of the skin from an actual tiger’s head and peafowl feathers. To avoid detection, the trader camouflaged the shipment of wallets and accessories with furniture.

Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) are a critically endangered tiger sub-species and can only be found in Indonesia. Sumatran tiger poaching and trading is prohibited under Indonesian law. Violators are subject to a maximum of 5 years in prison and a fine of USD 10,000.

Adjunct Police Commissioner Sugeng Irianto said, “We continue to investigate the source of tiger skins and other protected animals, including the price of these products in the domestic and international market. For legal purposes, we will work with the lab at the Eijkman Institute to determine the authenticity and species of the evidence.”

Noviar Andayani, Country Director of the WCS-Indonesia Program said, “We see that law enforcement does not only reflect the Indonesian government’s strong commitment, but also demonstrates a strategic move to stop the tiger trade chain from South Sumatra. WCS has committed to sustainably supporting the government to protect key wildlife such as the Sumatran tiger through multi-layered efforts, from wildlife protection in its habitat to technical support in effective, fair and transparent law enforcement.”

“This is a major arrest in that individuals causing great damage to the tiger population have now been taken out of the trade chain,” said Joe Walston, WCS Vice President of Field Conservation.“WCS pledges its continued support to the Indonesian authorities in a relentless pursuit of the individuals and groups engaged in these illegal activities.”

WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit is supported by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, Fondation Segré, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Multinational Species Conservation Funds, AZA Tiger Species Survival Plan’s Tiger Conservation Campaign, and the UK Government's IWT Challenge Fund.