Rare Birds at State Officials` Homes

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    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - In mid-October, one could hear birds chirping behind the three-meter wall of Bambang Soesatyo's European-style villa. A hornbill, yellow-crested cockatoos, cassowaries and brahminy kites were seen kept in spherical cages behind the villa's closed gate. Next to the birds, a spotted deer was also locked up in a cage. 

    The villa is located in the Cilember village in Bogor, West Java. Right next door to the villa owned by the DPR's legal affairs commission chairman is the Farras Villa, owned by MPR Speaker Zulkifli Hasan. Birds are kept at both villas. Zulkifli keeps his in a steel cage, six meters tall and five meters long. Farras Villa can be rented by the public and visitors are free to see two green peafowl, two hornbills, two yellow-crested cockatoos, and two rather gaunt palm cockatoos.

    "Pak Zulkifli and Pak Bambang are indeed neighbors with their villas next door to each ther," said Rahmat Hidayat, Cilember village secretary, to Tempo. Rahmat explained that the administrative paperwork for Zulkifli’s and Bambang’s villas are in order. Both routinely pay their land and building tax. But when asked about the administrative status of the wildlife there, the village secretary simply shrugged his shoulders.

    Read also: Politicians, State Officials Urged to Surrender Endangered Animals

    Nearly all the birds at both villas are protected species, many of which can be found in an appendix to Government Regulation No. 7/1999 on the Preservation of Types of Plants and Wildlife, containing a list of protected animals. Only those with protective captivity authorization and conservation institutions are allowed to keep them. Without this authorization, it is illegal to possess protected animals.

    At present, the Ministry for the Environment and Forestry is working hard with the police to rescue wild animals illegally owned by members of the public. The environment ministry notes that the crime of exploiting protected animals results in Rp1 trillion of state losses annually. These losses are calculated based on accumulated dealings in protected animals on the black market. "The amount of losses from damage to the ecosystem due to the loss of wildlife is much greater," said Irma Pradityo, a wildlife activist who has been tracking the owners of wild animals for years.

    At the international level, the value of such losses reaches US$1 billion annually. "Overseas police have placed wildlife crime in third place, after terrorism and narcotics," said Sr. Comsr. Adi Karya Tobing, chief of the National Police’s special crimes subdivision, to Tempo, end of October.

    Meanwhile, law enforcement efforts in Indonesia cannot yet avoid preferential treatment. In early October, 15 officers from the environment ministry went to Zulkifli and Bambang’s villas to confiscate these animals. But the officers turned back upon finding out that the owners of the two villas were high-ranking government officials from the national legislature. 

    Zulkifli was once their superior when he was forestry minister in 2009-2014. "The group immediately headed back when the team leader received a phone call from the adjutant of a government official," said an officer who took part in the operation.

    Before leaving, the officers took photographs of the wildlife kept at Bambang Soesatyo’s villa. From these photos, which Tempo has obtained, it became known that Bambang was also keeping sea eagles, Bali mynas, and a bird-of-paradise. Director for Biodiversity Conservation (KKH) Bambang Dahono Adji and Chief of the West Java Natural Resource Conservation Center (BKSDA) Sustyo Iriyono glanced at one another when Tempo asked about Bambang’s licenses for keeping these animals. "We have not found licenses under Pak Bambang Soesatyo’s name," said Bambang Dahono in a flat tone, at the end of October.

    Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine