Indonesian Tiger Smugglers Escape With Light Sentences in Sumatra

Disappointed conservationists say the prosecutor should have demanded harsher punishment for the traffickers who were caught carrying a number of animal parts, including a Sumatran tiger skin.

A Sumatran tiger. Credit: Reuters

A Sumatran tiger. Credit: Reuters

Jambi, Indonesia: A pair of wildlife traffickers were sentenced to eight months imprisonment here after authorities caught them with a bevy of illegal animal parts, including several Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) skins.

 The rare big cat is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with only a few hundred left in the wild.

The sentence, which came down last month, disappointed conservationists who said the prosecutor should have demanded a harsher punishment.

“Unfortunately this is a very light sentence,” said Irma Hermawati, legal advisor to the Indonesia programme of the Wildlife Conservation Society, an NGO.

The trend had previously been toward harsher sentencing of tiger part traffickers. Last year on Indonesia’s main western island of Sumatra, smugglers were sentenced to three years behind bars and fined 50 million rupiah (roughly $3,750) on three separate occasions, according to Yoan Dinata, of Forum HarimauKita, an NGO.

Dinata said it was “very sad” that the latest sentences were “very low.”

The two men, identified as EK and MN, were said to be long-time players in an illegal trading network spanning several Sumatran provinces. Each of them was caught with two tiger skins.

Besides the tiger skins, authorities confiscated three crocodiles from EK and some 2,600 snake and lizard skins; and from MN an assortment of taxidermied feline heads.

Hermawati said her side was pushing for special training of prosecutors so that wildlife criminals would receive harsher punishments in the future. The maximum sentence allowed under the 1990 conservation law is five years behind bars. Environmentalists are pushing for that law to be revised as well.

Translated by Philip Jacobson.

This article originally appeared on Mongabay.