Thursday, 16 August 2012

Dealer in Rare, Endangered Birds Flies the Coop

A man arrested for allegedly trading rare and endangered birds through the Internet escaped from custody on Monday just as he was about to be questioned by wildlife authorities, conservationists said. 

Irma Hermawati, coordinator of the Wildlife Advocacy Foundation (LASA), said that Wahid bin Umar escaped from the West Java Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) before officers could interrogate him. 

“We received news that he escaped at 7 a.m., on Monday morning, after telling officers that he needed to go to the toilet,” Irma said. 

She added that Wahid had been arrested on Sunday afternoon in Subang, West Java, by BKSDA officers and local police for allegedly selling protected birds through an online commerce site. 

Officers seized two birds during the arrest — a crested hawk-eagle and a Javan hawk-eagle. The latter, which is the national bird of Indonesia, is categorized as an endangered species, making its possession, sale or trade illegal. 

Authorities were aware of the suspect’s actions and were keeping a close eye on him. 

“The suspect’s activities had been under surveillance since Saturday,” Irma said. “He was known to frequently sell birds online through the site, under the handle ‘Sulaiman.’ He managed to sell between eight and 15 birds before he was arrested.” 

She said that among the birds he was known to have sold included palm cockatoos, yellow-crested cockatoos, hornbills and birds-of-paradise. 

Some hornbill and bird-of-paradise species are threatened, while the yellow-crested cockatoo is critically endangered — or just a step away from being extinct in the wild — which makes their possession or trade a crime. 

Irma said Wahid was believed to have bought the birds from a dealer in Surabaya. He was also a self-proclaimed member of the Raptor Club of Indonesia, which purports to conserve the country’s native birds of prey through breeding. 

“If he received the proper training [from the RCI], then it would be easy for him to handle the birds,” Irma said. “As for his claim to be a bird lover, we believe that’s just an excuse for him to sell birds. He was selling them as far as Aceh and Medan.” 

Wildlife activists recently sounded the alarm about the increased trading of animals and animal parts over the Internet, particularly in tiger parts. 

That announcement in late July came just days after police arrested a suspected taxidermist in Depok with dozens of stuffed wild animals and pelts. 

They included 14 tigers, two leopards, one clouded leopard, a lion, three bears and a tapir. 

There were also two sacks full of tiger pelts, as well as a stuffed tiger head and four mounted deer heads.

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