Orangutan trader gets 2 years in prison and IDR 10 million fine in Medan, North Sumatra

Press Release From Wildlife Conservation Society – Indonesia Program (WCS-IP)

Medan, Sumatra (Indonesia) July 6 2015 – Orangutan trader, Vast Haris Nugroho was sentenced to 2 years in prison and fined 10 million IDR in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Nugroho was arrested on February 27, 2015, by the Forest Police Rapid Response unit (SPORC) of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s Conservation Agency in North Sumatra (BBKSDA North Sumatra). The perpetrator initially attempted to resist arrest, physical trying to fight off law enforcement authorities when apprehended whilst trying to sell a 1-year old female orangutan, transported at the time in his holdall.

Vast Haris Nugroho was charged under Article 40 clause 2 jo Article 21 clause 2 from the Indonesian regulation on Natural Resources Conservation and its Ecosystem, jo Article No 7 year 1999 on the preservation of Plants and Wildlife that forbids the killing, capture, trade or ownership of orangutans, a protected species in Indonesia, and the prosecution initially sought a prison sentence of 3 years.

The head of BBKSDA of North Sumatera, Ir. John Kenedie, MM stated, “the sentence for the orangutan trader is an important step taken by the government in reducing the level of orangutan trade in Indonesia. We will act firmly on every form of wildlife crime to prevent such cases from recurring in the future.”

Vast Haris Nugroho admitted illegally sourcing wildlife via a hunter’s network and local dealers in Aceh and North Sumatera, and to having a trading network that reaches as far as Java. Based on investigations, Vast Haris was found to have also traded numerous other live animals illegally, including orangutans, golden cats, porcupines, slow loris, siamangs, gibbons, hornbills and baby crocodiles. He also illegally sold animal parts, such as hornbill beaks and the skins claws and canine teeth of Sumatran tigers.

Noviar Andayani, Country Director of the New York based Wildlife Conservation Society’s Indonesia Program, commented on hearing the verdict “We view the law enforcement efforts in this case as evidence of the government’s commitment to preserving Indonesia’s rich biodiversity, including its many protected wildlife species. We hope that the very clear and firm decision from the judge and prosecution today will have a deterrent effect among the community, sending a clear message that wildlife crimes can and will be punished.”

The Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) is a distinct species, different from its relative in neighbouring Borneo (Pongo pygmaeus). Sumatran orangutans are listed by the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as ‘Critically Endangered’ and on the list of the World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates. Both orangutan species are protected under Indonesian National Law No 5, 1990 on the protection of natural resources and ecosystems. The main threats to their survival include the destruction and fragmentation of their tropical rainforest habitat, often for plantations and roads, conflict with humans on farmland and plantations, and the illegal black market trade in orphan orangutan infants as pets, after their mothers have been killed.

Dr Ian Singleton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) added, “This is an excellent and extremely welcome result. Since the early 70’s there have been over 3,000 confiscations of illegal pet orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo but only a handful of actual prosecutions, and all of them only in the last few years. For far too long those involved in wildlife crime in Indonesia have known the chances of any serious legal consequences to their activities were essentially almost zero.”

According to WCS and BBKSDA North Sumatra this is actually the second time Vast Haris has been known to trade in orangutans. He confessed, in fact, to having carried out numerous illegal wildlife transactions over the last 2 years. His arrest was also the result of follow-up by BBKSDA/SPORC on a previous case in April 2014, in which one of Vast Haris Nugroho’s staff, Dedek Setiawan, was arrested and 2 golden cats, a siamang and a gibbon were confiscated in his possession. He was also found to be offering wildlife illegally for sale on the internet and sourcing many animals from Vast Haris Nugroho, known to have ready access to large numbers of animals of a wide variety of species. In August 2014, Dedek was sentenced to 16 months in prison and fined 5 million IDR.

Dr Singleton concluded, “The sheer scale of wildlife crime and trafficking in Indonesia is indeed staggering. Effective law enforcement and the threat of serious consequences for those involved is an essential component of the conservation arsenal if there is to be any hope of preventing the extinction of orangutans, and many other heavily traded and persecuted species here.”
The orangutan confiscated from Nugroho in this case, now named “Cita Ria”, is currently being cared for at the SOCP’s orangutan quarantine centre in Sumatra and will eventually be returned to the wild at one of its specialist reintroduction centres.

See also earlier story here:

1. Irma Hermawati, Policy and Legal Advisor, Wildlife Crime Unit: (+62 8128101907)

2. Ian Singleton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP): (+62 811650491), Email : email hidden; JavaScript is required