Indonesian tiger smugglers escape with light sentences in Sumatra

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  • The two tiger smugglers were each sentenced to eight months imprisonment in Jambi province.
  • Conservationists said the prosecutor should have demanded a harsher punishment.
  • The maximum sentence under the 1990 Conservation Law is five years behind bars, and activists are pushing for that to be revised upward, too.
  • Last year several tiger smugglers were sentenced to three years imprisonment and fined 50 million rupiah.

A pair of wildlife traffickers were sentenced to eight months imprisonment here after authorities caught them with a bevy of illegal animal parts, including several Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) skins.

The rare big cat is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, with only a few hundred left in the wild.

The sentence, which came down last month, disappointed conservationsts who said the prosecutor should have demanded a harsher punishment.

“Unfortunately this is a very light sentence,” said Irma Hermawati, legal advisor to the Indonesia program of the Wildlife Conservation Society, an NGO.

The trend had previously been toward harsher sentencing of tiger smugglers. Last year on Indonesia’s main western island of Sumatra, tiger smugglers were sentenced to three years behind bars and fined 50 million rupiah (roughly $3,750) on three separate occasions, according to Yoan Dinata, of Forum HarimauKita, an NGO.

Dinata said it was “very said” that the latest sentences were “very low.”

Indonesian tiger smugglers escape with light sentences in Sumatra
Sumatran tiger

The two men, identified as EK and MN, were said to be long-time players in an illegal trading network spanning several Sumatran provinces. Each of them was caught with two tiger skins.

Besides the tiger skins, authorities confiscated from EK three crocodiles and some 2,600 snake and lizard skins; and from MN an assortment of taxidermied feline heads.

Hermawati said her side was pushing for special training of prosecutors so that wildlife criminals would receive harsher punishments in the future. The maximum sentence allowed under the 1990 Conservation Law is five years behind bars. Environmentalists are pushing for that law to be revised as well.

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