WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit (WCU) said that interrogations from recent arrests of wildlife traders in Indonesia indicate that illegal activities are shifting to the eastern part of the country due to better enforcement in the west. 

In an operation led by the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency of East Nusa Tenggara (BKSDA NTT), Ir. Tamen Sitorus, M.Sc, three souvenir shop owners in eastern Indonesia found to be in possession of hundreds of products made of ivory and sea turtle were arrested.

The location of the arrests and DNA identification of the ivory as originating from Sumatran elephants signal a new modus operandi used by illegal traders looking to avoid a greater chance of arrest in western Indonesia.

The arrests, which took place in Kupang, Nusa Tenggara Timur on February 18, 2016, were informed by the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society’s) WCU who conducted covert surveillance on the shops from December 2015 to February 2016, and discovered the ivory items.

Evidence seized in the arrests totalled 658 ivory trinkets, 45 sea turtle carapaces, protected black coral, and ebony (protected wood in Indonesia).

Based on interviews and interrogations, the WCU discovered that trinkets made from Sumatran elephant ivory are being distributed by suppliers to eastern Indonesia. Here, due to a lack of market monitoring by the authorities and the low enforcement capacity of forest rangers, the rate of arrest for wildlife trafficking cases is lower compared to those in Sumatra and Java (western Indonesia).

During the investigation, hundreds of ivory items including bracelets, pendants, rings, statues, smoking pipes, and swagger sticks were openly displayed and sold by the traders at various prices and sizes. At the same time, the Marine WCU investigated the sea turtle carapace trade at the same souvenir shops. 

Ir. Tamen Sitorus, M.Sc expressed his gratitute to WCS for providing technical assistance during the operation, ”We are strongly committed to following through on every case,  confiscating all protected animal products, and  interrogating and interviewing suspects to a create deterrent effect.”

WCS-Indonesia Program’s Country Director Dr. Noviar Andayani stated, “WCU’s investigation revealed the massive trade of elephant ivory products in eastern Indonesia. WCS will support the Indonesian government to protect Sumatran Elephants by combating the illegal trade of ivory, increasing the law enforcement demonstration, and scaling up law enforcement capacity.” 

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.