TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Indonesian police on Wednesday, March 27, arrested nine men suspected of trafficking Komodo dragons, the largest living species of lizard, as well as other endangered birds and wild cats destined for use in traditional medicines.
An environment ministry official said it was the first time he had heard of the trafficking of Komodo dragons, which are only found in the wild in eastern Indonesia, and have become a tourist attraction.
The men detained in the city of Surabaya told police they had sold more than 40 Komodo dragons for Rp500 million ($35,000) each, said Rofiq Ripto Himawan, a police commissioner in East Java.
"These animals are sold for traditional medicine. Komodo dragons could be used to make an antibiotic," Himawan said by telephone, explaining that they were usually sent abroad to Asian buyers.
Police seized five Komodo dragons along with other animals mostly originating from eastern Indonesia, including pangolins, a wild cat and birds, such as cockatoos.
The authorities were working with vets and conservation and wildlife agencies to ensure the animals are cared for, Himawan added.
Environment ministry official Wiratno, who uses only one name, also said traffickers were using new tactics by turning to social media to advertise animals.
The law prescribes jail for up to ten years and a fine for trafficking endangered animals. Despite the penalties, the trade is still widespread across parts of the Indonesian archipelago.