TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - ON Monday two weeks ago, on the side of Jalan Asia Afrika in Central Jakarta, a cardboard box changed hands from an online motorcycle taxi driver to Nurul Alfiyah, 25. Through a small opening at the top of the box, one could spot a small creature with brown feathers and sad eyes: a Javan slow loris.
While traveling about 20 kilometers in one hour on the motorcycle taxi, the nocturnal creature kept its head between its knees. "It was picked up in Kalideres, West Jakarta," said Nurul to the Tempo journalist who witnessed the transaction.
Along with 235 other species, the slow loris is on the list of animals protected under Government Regulation No. 7/1999 on the Preservation of Wild Plant and Animal Species. Unless they are second or third generation from the parent animal, they may not be bought or sold. They must come from a conservation institution licensed by the environment and forestry ministry’s Directorate-General of Natural Resource and Ecosystem Conservation.
Nurul, who works at an animal lovers organization, intentionally purchased the animal for Rp500,000 after finding an ad on Facebook. The process took less than a week, from asking about the animal’s condition to making a deal with the seller. The slow loris will be turned over to a wildlife rescue agency. Nurul had already purchased a silvery gibbon, also through Facebook.
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In the past, such sales often took place at the Jatinegara Market and Pramuka Market in East Jakarta. But the sale of rare fauna has shifted to social media and online shops. Rosek Nursahid, chairman of the Forest and Fauna or Profauna Protection, says his organization found that over 5,000 rare animals were sold on Facebook this year alone, compared to 3,640 in 2014. "(The number is) increasing each year," said Rosek.
Senior Commissioner Adi Karya Tobing, chief of the National Police’s Sub-Directorate I for Special Crimes, verified the worrying trend. This year, the police have solved 20 cases of wild animal sale over the Internet.
Tempo has been tracking down the sale of rare wildlife through social media and online shops since early October. It is not difficult to find ads. On Facebook, one can perform a search for the names of rare animals and a list of ad postings will appear, including for the bird-of-paradise, which, along with 10 other animal species such as the silvery gibbon and orangutan, requires a special permission for captivity.
Sellers also use a number of Facebook groups. One of them is known as ‘Jual Lelang Hewan’, abbreviated as ‘Juleha’, with over 47,000 members. There are also private groups, such as ‘Exotic Animals’, created on September 7 and followed by more than 3,500 accounts.
Tempo checked the two groups and saw ads for rare wild animals such as black-furred gibbons, eagles, infant silvery gibbons, and a saltwater crocodile over one meter long. These ads also promoted animals with terms such as ‘jitot’ (fully domesticated) and ‘gacor’ (for chirpy birds).
It is unclear how these sellers came into possession of the various animal spcies, whose numbers are dwindling. The identities of the sellers of such wildlife at Juleha and Exotic Animals are concealed. They use fake accounts and only take questions through text message, WhatsApp, or BlackBerry Messenger. "So that their identities are not exposed," said Marison Guciano, director of investigations for Scorpion, an institution for people concerned for rare animals. Scorpion members observe the sale of wildlife through online media.
If caught and convicted, sellers of rare animals- which includes the sale of parts of protected wildlife- can be sentenced to up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to Rp100 million. This is why sellers do not accept cash on delivery (COD). They would usually send the animals through a delivery service after the buyer has transferred payment.
Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine