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Protection from exploitation needed for the endemic Sulawesi Bear Cuscus Ailurops ursinus in Indonesia

Authors:
  • Monitor Conservation Research Society

Abstract

Illegal trade in wildlife in Indonesia is rampant, and includes many little-known species, such as the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus Ailurops ursinus. Too often the trade in less charismatic species goes unnoticed, with many being pushed towards extinction. Sadly, few, if any, effective interventions are put in place to prevent further declines. The demand for the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus appears to be small but growing both nationally and internationally and increasingly, carried out on online platforms, making enforcement of existing policies difficult. Legal protection for Sulawesi Bear Cuscus in Indonesia is inadequate, obstructing effective enforcement efforts. Furthermore, the species is not listed in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), making international control impossible. Here we examine the trade in Indonesia’s bear cuscus species and make recommendations for more effective prevention of illegal trade at national and international levels.
30 © University of Andalas / Copenhagen Zoo
Introduction
The Sulawesi Bear Cuscus Ailurops ursinus is
endemic to Indonesia, found only on Sulawesi and
surrounding islands of Butung, the Peleng Islands,
the Togian Islands, and possibly Muna (Flannery,
1995; Nowak, 1999; Salas et al, 2008). It is the
largest and most primitive species of the Family
Phalangeridae (Dwiyahreni et al, 1999) and one of
two species of this genus in Indonesia.
Protection from exploitation needed for the endemic
Sulawesi Bear Cuscus Ailurops ursinus in Indonesia
¹, Emerson Y. Sy², Jordi Janssen¹ and 
¹Monitor Conservaon Research Society (Monitor), PO Box 200, Big Lake Ranch, B.C., V0L 1G0, Canada
²TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Corresponding author: Chris R. Shepherd, Email: chris.shepherd@mcrsociety.org
Very little is known of the natural history of this
species (Nowak, 1999) or of the conservation
status. The Sulawesi Bear Cuscus is currently
assessed as being Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List
of Threatened Species, with threats to its survival
including habitat loss, hunting by local people for
food, and capture for the pet trade (Salas et al,
2008). While trade is listed as a threat, the scale
and dynamics of the trade are relatively unknown.
International trade is not mentioned in published
literature and is not specically mentioned as a

Illegal trade in wildlife in Indonesia is rampant, and includes many lile-known species, such as the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus
Ailurops ursinus. Too oen the trade in less charismac species goes unnoced, with many being pushed towards exncon.
Sadly, few, if any, eecve intervenons are put in place to prevent further declines. The demand for the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus
appears to be small but growing both naonally and internaonally and increasingly, carried out on online plaorms, making
enforcement of exisng policies dicult. Legal protecon for Sulawesi Bear Cuscus in Indonesia is inadequate, obstrucng
eecve enforcement eorts. Furthermore, the species is not listed in the Appendices of the Convenon on Internaonal
Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), making internaonal control impossible. Here we examine the trade in Indonesia’s bear
cuscus species and make recommendaons for more eecve prevenon of illegal trade at naonal and internaonal levels.

Perdagangan ilegal satwa liar di Indonesia merajalela dan melibatkan banyak spesies-spesies yang kurang dikenal, seper
Kuskus Beruang Sulawesi, Ailurops ursinus. Seringkali, perdagangan spesies-spesies yang kurang karismak terjadi tanpa
disadari sehingga banyak yang akhirnya terdorong menuju kepunahan. Sangat disayangkan bahwa usaha campur tangan
yang efekf untuk mencegah penurunan jumlah yang terus terjadi ini bisa dibilang sangat sedikit, bahkan mungkin dak
ada. Permintaan untuk Kuskus Beruang Sulawesi nampaknya masih kecil, namun mulai meningkat baik pada skala nasional
maupun internasional. Selain itu, perdagangannya semakin banyak dilakukan secara daring, sehingga membuat upaya
penegakan hukum yang berlaku saat ini menjadi sulit. Perlindungan hukum bagi Kuskus Beruang Sulawesi di Indonesia belum
cukup. Hal ini menghalangi upaya pelaksanaan hukum yang efekf. Belum lagi, spesies ini dak ada di dalam daar apendiks
Konvensi Perdagangan Internasional Spesies Terancam (CITES), sehingga pengawasan serta pengendalian internasional
menjadi dak mungkin dilakukan. Pada tulisan ini, kami menelaah perdagangan spesies Kuskus Beruang di Indonesia dan
memberikan rekomendasi untuk pencegahan perdagangan ilegal yang lebih efekf di ngkat nasional maupun internasional.
Keywords: Bear cuscus, Ailurops ursinus, exploitaon, illegal trade, Indonesia
Submied 6th November, 2018; Accepted January 2019.
31
2018 Journal of Indonesian Natural History Vol 6 No 2
threat in the IUCN Red List assessment of this
species (Salas et al., 2008).
Indonesia is home to at least one more Ailurops
species, the Talaud Bear Cuscus A. melanotis,
known with certainty only from one location,
Salibabu Island, within the Talaud Islands, which
is less than 100 km2. (Flannery and Helgen, 2016).
A bear cuscus has also been reported from Sangihe
(the largest island in the Sangihe Island group),
though the taxonomic identity of this species
remains to be conrmed (Flannery and Helgen,
2016). The Talaud Bear Cuscus is assessed as
being Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List
and is severely threatened by hunting and habitat
loss (Flannery and Helgen, 2016). The Talaud Bear
Cuscus is listed as a protected species in Indonesia
under the Act of the Republic of Indonesia No.5 of
1990 concerning conservation of living resources
and their ecosystem. There is no indication this
species is being commercially bred for export.
While the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus was not
specically listed as a protected species under
Indonesian legislation, the entire Phalangerid
family was provided with blanket protection under
Government Regulation No. 7/1999 concerning
the preservation of ora and fauna. There is also
a specic mention of this species being totally
protected on an Indonesian government website
that lists a complete version of the protected
mammals of Indonesia: http://dlh.grobogan.go.id/
info-lh/berita/54-daftar-satwa-langka-mamalia-
indonesia-yang-dilindungi. The inclusion of the
Sulawesi Bear Cuscus on the protected species
list may have aorded it some level of safeguard
from capture and trade; however, in August 2018,
the Government of Indonesia launched a revised
list of protected species (Ministerial Regulation
No.92/2018), and the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus is now
absent from this list, as is the blanket protection for
the genus.
The hunting and trade in animals that are not
protected are regulated under Regulation of
the Minister of Forestry No. 447/Kpts-II/2003
concerning administration directive of harvest or
capture and distribution of wild specimens. This
regulation states that an annual quota is set for all
animals that can be captured in the wild. Catching
animals for which no quota has been set, in excess
of quota that have been set, or outside provinces
for which quotas have been set, is deemed illegal,
even when the species concerned is not legally
protected. There is no quota for the Sulawesi Bear
Cuscus, however, while this theoretically provides
protection from commercial exploitation, no
punishments for transgressions are stated under
this law and, therefore, this regulation is dicult
to enforce.
Capture of breeding stock is permitted on a
case-by-case basis by the Indonesian Institute of
Sciences, to allow registered breeders to export
live ospring as pets, but it is not known how many
animals have been removed from the wild for this
purpose.
As the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus and the other
Ailurops species are not listed in the Appendices
of the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES), there is no current mechanism in place to
monitor, regulate or control the international trade
in this species. There is also no system to record
reports of international trade or incidents of illegal
trade, seizures or enforcement actions relating to
this species.
In addition to Indonesia having a thriving
domestic illegal wildlife trade (Shepherd, 2010;
Nijman et al., 2012: Eaton et al., 2015), wildlife
is also frequently smuggled from Indonesia to
neighbouring countries, such as the Philippines,
where it is sold to meet local demand, or smuggled
on to further international destinations (Shepherd,
2005; Shepherd and Sy, 2017). In the Philippines,
the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection
Act of 2001 accords protection to native and
non-native wildlife. Individuals or organisations
are required to obtain relevant permits from the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR) to collect, import/export, possess, trade,
and transport wildlife. Wildlife without permits
can be seized in favour of the State.
Recently, there have been anecdotal reports of
Exploitaon and protecon of bear cuscus
32 © University of Andalas / Copenhagen Zoo
Sulawesi Bear Cuscus being harvested live from
the wild for the international pet trade, yet little
is known of this trade, the legality of it or the
potential impact on wild populations. As such,
this paper intends to shed light on the trade in this
species, to call for transparency in the trade of this
species and open the door for further potential
research, national and international regulation and
conservation initiatives.
Methods
In July 2018, a rapid online trade survey was carried
out to identify and compile incidences of trade
in Sulawesi Bear Cuscus from 2012-2018. The
survey was made across 45 dierent Indonesian
wildlife trade Facebook groups. Searches were
conducted using the key words “kuskus beruang”
(bear cuscus) in the Facebook search bar with
the tab “Your Groups” selected under the lter
options. The number of members in groups ranged
from 324 148,816. When an advertisement was
identied to be selling a Sulawesi Bear Cuscus,
information was collected on the location, price,
and the number and size of individuals advertised.
No personal data about the sellers were collected
and no interaction with sellers took place.
A letter requesting information regarding legal
trade, captive breeding and export of Sulawesi
Bear Cuscus was sent 30 August 2018 to the Head
of Section of Wildlife Trac Control, the Head
of Section of Captive Breeding and the Deputy
Director of Species Utilization in the Indonesian
Government. Further information on the trade
in this species in Indonesia was obtained from
wildlife trade researchers, as well as published and
unpublished literature.
In the Philippines, a survey was conducted in 30
Facebook groups engaged in wildlife trade in the
Philippines in July 2018 to monitor the availability
of this species in the online platform. Facebook is
known to be a major venue of illegal wildlife trade
in the Philippines (Sy, 2018).
Further information on the trade in this species was
obtained in the Philippines by reviewing data from
seizure records of the Biodiversity Management
Bureau-DENR (BMB-DENR), DENR region 12,
newspaper articles, and from wildlife researchers.
As one of the few countries that record imports of
non-CITES species, import and export data for the
United States of America (USA) was also checked,
and was obtained from the US Fish and Wildlife
Service (USFWS) Law Enforcement Management
Information System (LEMIS) covering the period
2000-2014. LEMIS species the content of each
shipment with either a species code, a genus code
or a more general code (e.g. NONR= Non-CITES
reptile), with the latter more common in larger
shipments (Schlaepfer et al., 2005). Here, we
searched for data specically labelled as Aliurops
ursinus.
Observations
Illegal wildlife trade within online trade and
hobbyist groups is rampant. A survey of Facebook
groups between 2012 and 2018 yielded a total of 31
unique advertisements (Figure 1) selling Sulawesi
Bear Cuscus, with a total of 44 individuals oered
for sale. Number of advertisements found annually
from 2012 to 2017 remained stable until a sharp
rise in the number of advertisements was observed
in 2018. Of these, 21 advertisements contained just
one animal and 10 included more than one individual
(ranging from 2 5). Fifteen dierent Facebook
groups had advertisements selling Sulawesi bear
cuscus, of which one was a secret group, 10 were
closed groups and 4 were public groups. Within
these groups, 25 dierent traders were identied to
be selling Sulawesi Bear Cuscus, and of these, six
traders posted more than one advertisement. The
prices ranged from IDR 1,200,000 (USD 70.00)
to 3,500,000 (USD 230) for one Bear Cuscus
individual (n = 6). Traders stated that the preferred
method of payment was via REKBER (rekening
bersama – transfer via a third-party joint account)
(n = 18) followed by cash on delivery (n = 2). The
majority of traders were located in East Java (13),
followed by Jakarta (4), Sulawesi (2), West Java
(1) and Central Java (1).
In November 2017, a man was arrested in South
Sulawesi for attempting to sell three Sulawesi Bear
33
2018 Journal of Indonesian Natural History Vol 6 No 2
Cuscus online, along with a variety of other species
of birds and mammals from Sulawesi (http://
news.metrotvnews.com/read/2017/12/20/804811/
polda-sulsel-tangkap-residivis-pedagang-satwa-
dilindungi).
There is anecdotal information that at least
one wildlife breeder in Jakarta has been granted
permission to obtain wild-caught parent stock
to attempt to breed Sulawesi Bear Cuscus for
commercial sale. However, details about this
were not publicly available and there have been
no responses to inquiries sent to the relevant
government authorities in Indonesia. Sulawesi Bear
Cuscus are not listed in the Indonesian Government’s
annual harvest and quota list for 2018, but special
permission may have been granted.
Illegal trade in wildlife smuggled out of Indonesia
to the Philippines is common. On 7 August 2012, 17
Sulawesi Bear Cuscuses were seized in Barangay
Calumpang, General Santos City, South Cotabato
Province, Mindanao Island, the Philippines. Five
suspects, including one Indonesian and four
Filipino nationals, were arrested by the Maritime
Group of the Philippine National Police and
DENR. The Sulawesi Bear Cuscuses were most
likely destined to privately-owned zoological parks
that are in constant search for novel and unusual
animals to exhibit. South Cotabato Province has
been implicated as a key entry point utilised by
trackers for smuggled Indonesian wildlife.
The authors did not observe Sulawesi Bear Cuscus
for sale online in the Philippines, but this may be
due to tracker’s preference to deal directly with
private collectors.
LEMIS
The USA LEMIS database reports the import of
151 Sulawesi Bear Cuscus and the export of two
specimens. The majority of the transactions are
described as Garment (GAR) and Hair (HAI) or
other products and are exported by, or originate
from, New Zealand. The attached generic name
“Possum” suggests that these transactions are
mistakenly documented as Aliurops ursinus but are
actually Common Brushtail Possums Trichosurus
vulpecula. The latter is a widespread agricultural
invasive species in New Zealand, introduced for
the fur industry.
Fourteen specimens are documented to originate
from Indonesia, of which 10 are also documented as
Possum and declared as Garment. The remaining
four animals, of which two are documented
as A.u.togianus, are documented as Specimen
(Scientic or Museum). These four specimens were
imported from Australia with Indonesia listed as its
origin. Two out of four were imported for scientic
purposes, the remaining two were exported with an
unknown purpose code (N). The data available in
the LEMIS database suggest that the majority of
documented trade consists of misidentied animals
and do not consists of Sulawesi Bear Cuscus. The
remaining transactions, while they do originate
from Indonesia, likely consists of scientic
specimens and not live animals. There does not
appear to have been any documented import of live
Sulawesi Bear Cuscus in the USA.
Discussion and recommendations
Considering the demand for wildlife as pets and
given the ease in nding this species for sale on
online platforms, illegal trade of Sulawesi Bear
Cuscus is likely common in Indonesia, especially
in the main cities on Java. Surveys carried out in
Facebook wildlife trade groups found a total of 31
unique advertisements that rose from one to 17 per
year in the period from 2012 to 2018. A total of
44 individual Sulawesi Bear Cusus were observed
for sale in these sites, some of which were open or
public groups. The spike in trade observed in 2018
could be due to an increase of animals in trade or
highlight a general shift from physical market to
online trade (Chng and Bouhuys, 2015; Bergin et
al., 2017). Nevertheless, while there has been some
enforcement action targeting online traders, it has
clearly not been enough to deter the trade, in view
that the online trade seems to be increasing.
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
1 2 3 2 3 3 17
Table 1. Numbers of adverts selling Sulawesi Bear Cuscus per
year (2012-2018).
Exploitaon and protecon of bear cuscus
34 © University of Andalas / Copenhagen Zoo
Online trade is more dicult to police than physical
markets as traders can set up anonymous accounts
or use fake names when making a transaction
(Krishnasamy and Stoner, 2016; Morgan and
Chng, 2017). This has been complicated further
with an increase in use of the REKBER transfer
system, which was the preferred method of payment
observed in this survey. In the REKBER system, a
third-party bank account is used so that no recordable
transaction takes place between the trader and the
buyer, making it dicult for police to link the two
criminals or prove any illegal activity took place.
The online trade in Sulawesi Bear Cuscus
appeared to be limited to the Islands of Sulawesi
and Java, with the province of East Java having the
highest incidences of trade. In East Java, the capital
city Surabaya is a known destination and transit
point for smuggled wildlife from Kalimantan, the
Moluccas, Papua and Sulawesi (Chng and Eaton,
2016). The larger numbers of traders recorded in
East Java therefore may indicate that this existing
trade route is also being used to smuggle Bear
Cuscus from Sulawesi into Java.
Enforcement eorts to prevent illegal hunting
and trade in bear cuscus species in Indonesia is
weak (Flannery and Helgen, 2016) and it is highly
likely that enforcement ocers globally do not
have the skills to identify the species, especially
as international trade appears to be rather sporadic,
and as the species is not listed in the appendices
of CITES. We encourage the Government of
Indonesia, as the only range country, to place
the genus Ailurops in Appendix III of CITES, or
to propose it be listed in Appendix II, to gain the
international community’s assistance in preventing
illegal international trade of Sulawesi Bear Cuscus.
CITES member countries would be obligated to
seize specimens of this species in trade without
the required permits. Listing the species in CITES
would also provide a mechanism for monitoring
and recording of trade.
As this species has been seized in the Philippines,
it is clear that some illegal international trade
in Sulawesi Bear Cuscus persists as well. The
Philippine wildlife authorities will continue to
seize wildlife without proper permits as and when
detected; however, the scale of the undetected
trade is not known, nor is the demand in
countries beyond the Philippines for this species.
Furthermore, illegal trade to other countries with
high demand for wildlife from Indonesia has yet to
be investigated, although no such commercial trade
to the USA appeared in a search of LEMIS data.
We encourage individuals and/or organisations
monitoring trade in wildlife to publicise seizures
or other information pertaining to the trade in
Ailurops species to further assist in understanding
the impact of trade on these species and to assist
in the planning and implementation of appropriate
conservation interventions.
The recent revision of the list of species protected
under the Government Regulation No.7, 1999,
Concerning the preservation of ora and fauna
omits the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus, leaving this
species vulnerable to exploitation. We encourage
the Government of Indonesia to list the Sulawesi
Bear Cuscus as a protected species under the
Government Regulation No.7, 1999, Concerning
the preservation of ora and fauna, especially
since the zero-quota status of the species is in itself
dicult to enforce.
Anecdotal information suggests that permission
has recently been given to at least one commercial
breeder of wildlife in Indonesia to harvest specimens
from the wild for use as breeding stock to supply
ospring for the pet trade. Indonesia requires that
species bred in captivity for commercial sale are
second generation (F2) production, and it is highly
unlikely that any second-generation stock exist,
given permission to breed this species has apparently
only been granted recently. The Government of
Indonesia is encouraged to make this information
publicly available, to assist authorities in other
countries, as well as conservation organisations,
better determine the legality of specimens in trade.
Finally, we ask that the IUCN Red List authorities
for the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus recognise commercial
trade at national and international levels as a
potential risk to the survival of the species in the
IUCN Red List assessment, and thus encourage
researchers, enforcement agencies and policy
makers to include the threat of trade in future
conservation and regulatory interventions.
35
2018 Journal of Indonesian Natural History Vol 6 No 2
Acknowledgements
The authors are grateful to Mundita Lim and Ali
Hadjinasser for providing relevant information with
regards to the Philippines. In Indonesia, we thank
Karlina Indraswari for providing valuable information.
An anonymous donor is thanked for supporting
Monitor’s work on this publication. The authors are
grateful to Lalita Gomez for very helpful comments on
an earlier draft of this note. Biofagri Rachmayuningtyas
is thanked for assistance with translation.
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Exploitaon and protecon of bear cuscus
... The Sulawesi bear cuscus (Ailurops ursinus; Bubutu Mehmu; Suyanto et al. 2020) is one of the two Ailurops species, which form an evolutionarily distinct branch of the Phalangeridae, being recognised as the subfamily Ailuropinae, which includes the dwarf cuscus genus Strigocuscus (Dwiyahreni et al. 1999). It is the most primitive and largest species within the Phalangeridae family (Shepherd et al. 2018). The Sulawesi bear cuscus is endemic to Sulawesi and several satellite islands (Martin et al. 2019), where it inhabits undisturbed lowland tropical rainforest and (less frequently) plantations and gardens (Helgen & Jackson 2015;Martin et al. 2019). ...
... Ailurops ursinus is listed as Vulnerable (Salas et al. 2019;Suyanto et al. 2020), being threatened with extinction from illegal wildlife trade, hunting and deforestation, with continuing decline of populations (Saragih et al. 2010;Dahlen 2013;Shepherd et al. 2018;Martin et al. 2019;Salas et al. 2019). The large areas of habitat available and reduced hunting pressures on islands in southeast Sulawesi are likely to be the strongholds for A. ursinus; for example, A. ursinus on Buton island in southeast Sulawesi are widespread and common (Martin et al. 2019). ...
... This first known recording of acoustic behaviour and associated displays in A. ursinus contributes to the knowledge of acoustical repertoire and behaviour of the species and marsupials in general (Hogan & Morrow 2015). Recordings such as these contribute to an increased understanding of the natural history, and ecological knowledge of a poorly known, enigmatic species (Shepherd et al. 2018;Martin et al. 2019). We hope that documenting this opportunistic field observation will provide a basis for further acoustic study of phalangerids. ...
Article
en Possum acoustic behaviour is complex and varies substantially, with some species having numerous calls used in various contexts, while other species are limited to one known vocalisation or non‐vocal sounds. Here, we report that the first known recording of Sulawesi bear cuscus (Ailurops ursinus, 1824) acoustic behaviour and observations of associated behavioural displays. We observed an animal adopting a raised posture in apparent threat display and audio‐recorded the concurrent short, harsh sounds. The animal produced a ‘chatter’, composed of four notes given at short, regular intervals, followed by a series of ‘clicks’ given at longer and irregular intervals. We describe the frequency and temporal characteristics of these sounds. Clicks were variable in acoustic structure, possibly falling into three subtypes, and some clicks overlapped in acoustic features with individual chatter notes. Click and chatter notes were broadband and non‐tonal, and so appear to be non‐vocal sounds, produced by the mouth or tongue rather than larynx. Our observations and recording of A. ursinus contribute to the natural history of this poorly known and enigmatic species, that is currently threatened with extinction from illegal wildlife trade, hunting and deforestation. Abstrak id Perilaku akustik possum bersifat kompleks dan sangat bervariasi, dengan beberapa spesies memiliki beragam panggilan yang digunakan dalam berbagai konteks, sementara spesies lain diketauhi terbatas pada satu suara vokalisasi atau non‐vokal. Di sini, kami melaporkan rekaman pertama yang diketahui dari perilaku akustik Kuskus beruang Sulawesi (Ailurops ursinus,1824) dan pengamatan dari tampilan perilaku terkait. Kami mengamati seekor hewan yang mengadopsi postur tubuh yang tampak seperti ancaman, dan merekam audio suara yang pendek dan kasar secara bersamaan. Hewan itu mengeluarkan "obrolan", terdiri dari empat nada yang diberikan secara singkat dan teratur, diikuti oleh serangkaian suara decak yang diberikan dengan interval yang lebih panjang dan tidak teratur. Kami menjelaskan frekuensi dan karakteristik temporal suara‐suara ini. Suara decak bervariasi dalam struktur akustik, mungkin terbagi dalam tiga sub‐jenis, dan beberapa suara decak tumpang tindih dalam fitur akustik dengan catatan obrolan individual. Nada decak dan obrolan adalah nada pita lebar dan non‐nada, sehingga tampak seperti suara non‐vokal, yang dihasilkan oleh mulut atau lidah daripada laring. Pengamatan dan pencatatan kami terhadap A. ursinus berkontribusi pada sejarah alami spesies yang kurang dikenal dan misterius ini, yang saat ini terancam punah karena perdagangan illegal satwa liar, perburuan dan penggundulan hutan. Abstract in Indonesian is available with online material.
... The popularity of the Sugar Glider Petaurus breviceps (Fig. 18) as a small mammalian pet is growing, but it may become an invasive species in the future when escaped or released pets establish feral populations in the wild and negatively affect native species and ecosystems. The introduced Sugar Glider in Tasmania (Australia) was identified as a predator of Swift Parrots and their eggs and the primary threat to breeding failure of the endangered bird (Stojanovic et al., 2014 (Shepherd and Sy, 2018;Shepherd et al., 2019). The alleged practice of a few zoological parks and wildlife breeding farms to illegally acquire wildlife, engage in wildlife laundering by fraudulently reporting wildcaught or smuggled wildlife as captive-bred, and legally export wildlife under the pretense of conservation warrants immediate attention and in-depth investigation by the DENR. ...
Technical Report
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The illegal wildlife trade is one of the most lucrative transnational crimes in the world. Numerous wildlife are threatened with extinction due to overexploitation for food, medicine, and as pets. Although it is difficult to quantify the illegal wildlife trade due to its mostly clandestine nature, analyzing seizure data can indicate its magnitude. Wildlife seizure records from the DENR, PCSDS, and other sources for the period 2010–2019 were collated and analyzed to identify species threatened by the illegal wildlife trade, hotspots, and trafficking routes. The 10-year seizure dataset involved 511 incidents, 283 taxa, and 44,647 wildlife individuals. Reptiles (n = 16,237 individuals) and birds (n = 6,042) were the top seized live wildlife, while pangolin scales (>2,100 kg) had the most quantity and seizure frequency among derivatives. Intervention policies on the key source, transit, and destination locations were proposed to address illegal wildlife trade in the country.
... First, on all three islands, A. melanotis are the most hunted animals for different purposes (Salibabu; for consumption, Bukide and Nusa; some of it is consumed, partly sold to Sangihe Island or sold/bartered with Filipino fishermen). As known, illegal trade in wildlife smuggled out of Indonesia to the Philippines is common (Shepherd et al. 2018). Second, the development of the human population on the three islands has encouraged land clearing for agriculture and settlements. ...
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The Talaud bear cuscus (Ailurops melanotis) has been reported from Sangihe (the largest island in the Sangihe Island group) and Salibabu (within the Talaud Islands). As an endemic species of Indonesia, this species is rare and there is no certainty regarding its precise geographic distribution or population size. This research aimed to estimate population density and provide the first preliminary data on its geographical distribution, as well as general description of its habitat. Our research shows that A. melanotis occurs on three islands: Salibabu Island, Nusa Island, and Bukide Island, and probably also exists in the Sahandaruman mountain on Sangihe Island. Our population surveys estimate, population density on each island as: Salibabu: 3.69 ± 2.54 ind/km 2 , with an estimated total population of 28.95 individuals, Nusa Island: was 12.31 ± 2.58 ind/km 2 , with an estimated population of 19.08 individuals, and Bukide Island: 7.17 ± 1.79/km 2 , with an estimated population of 10.40 individuals. Information regarding population is a key guiding factor in conservation efforts, where population size is related to extinction risk (threat status) and its geographical distribution, this can help to determine conservation priorities for species or habitats.
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Overexploitation is a key driver of biodiversity loss but the relationship between the use and trade of species and conservation outcomes is not always straightforward. Accurately characterizing wildlife trade and understanding the impact it has on wildlife populations are therefore critical to evaluating the potential threat trade poses to species and informing local to international policy responses. However, a review of recent research that uses wildlife and trade‐related databases to investigate these topics highlights three relatively widespread issues: (1) mischaracterization of the threat that trade poses to certain species or groups, (2) misinterpretation of wildlife trade data (and illegal trade data in particular), resulting in the mischaracterization of trade, and (3) misrepresentation of international policy processes and instruments. This is concerning because these studies may unwittingly misinform policymaking to the detriment of conservation, for example by undermining positive outcomes for species and people along wildlife supply chains. Moreover, these issues demonstrate flaws in the peer‐review process. As wildlife trade articles published in peer‐reviewed journals can be highly influential, we propose ways for authors, journal editors, database managers, and policymakers to identify, understand, and avoid these issues as we all work towards more sustainable futures.
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The illegal wildlife trade is a major threat to an increasingly long list of species, and nowhere is this threat greater than in Southeast Asia. The demand for live animals from Southeast Asian countries for the exotic pet trade threatens a wide variety of species, including some already on the brink of extinction. Here we report on seizures made of the Critically Endangered western long-beaked echidna Zaglossus bruijnii, which took place in the Philippines in 2014. The animals originated from Indonesia where they are totally protected by law. Indonesia, however, remains a major source of illegally acquired wildlife for the international trade and it is imperative that actions is taken, nationally and internationally, to reduce current levels of illegal trade and ultimately to ensure species like the western long-beaked echidna are no longer threatened. Journal of Indonesian Natural History Vol 5 No 1/2: 22-26
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With the rise in popularity and accessibility of the internet, a growing number of people are selling goods online. Classified advertisement websites such as eBay, Gumtree and Craigslist allow users to sell goods or services directly to consumers, bypassing the need for an intermediary. The convenience, anonymity and widespread reach of these websites has led to an increase in legal and illegal wildlife being traded online (IFAW 2014; Lavorgna 2014, 2015). Sellers advertise illegal wildlife openly as there is little need to resort to darkweb sites (Harrison et al. 2016). Recent reports indicate that the trade of prohibited animals online is flourishing, and is a cause of conservation concern for a broad range of species (IFAW 2014; Hinsley et al. 2016; Morgan and Chng 2017). The Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) is considered Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and was upgraded to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix I in January 2017, with offtake for the illegal pet trade noted as one of the significant factors contributing to their decline in the wild (Anon 2016). Once present throughout North Africa, the range of this species is now limited to Algeria, Morocco, and a small, intro- duced population in Gibraltar (Taub 1984). Legislation in both Morocco and Algeria prohibits the trade in Barbary macaques, with potential fines of up to USD10,000 per animal in Morocco and USD1,000 in Algeria. There is evidence that the species has been traded since at least the early Iron Age (Massetti and Bruner 2009) and previous studieshave noted the presence of a domestic trade in Barbary macaques in Morocco (van Lavieren 2008; Nijman et al. 2015; Waters et al. 2016) and Algeria (Sabrina 2008) but no assessment of the online trade has been conducted in either country.
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The Critically Endangered ploughshare tortoise Astrochelys yniphora , endemic to Madagascar, is one of the rarest tortoises. Despite its protection under Malagasy national law and featuring in Appendix I of CITES, heightened interest from reptile collectors over recent decades has expedited the scale of poaching to critical levels. Illegal traders are now turning to online retail platforms and social media to sell this species. We present data from a 5-month study conducted by TRAFFIC in 2015 of online trade in ploughshare tortoises in Indonesia during 2010–2015. We identified 88 advertisements selling 126 ploughshare tortoises from 49 sellers. Fifty-six percent of the advertisements were located on forums or online retail sites and 43% on social media. Since 2012 advertisements on social media increased steadily, to > 90% in 2015. Seventy-five percent of the advertisements were from sellers based in Indonesia, 74% of which were from Jakarta. Prices were USD 509–47,000. The internet provides Indonesian traders with a means to sell protected wildlife comparatively safely and easily. The abundance of illegally sourced ploughshare tortoises openly on offer in online trade in Indonesia highlights a disregard for the law among Indonesian importers and their exporting counterparts. A re-evaluation by CITES of Indonesia's existing legislation is necessary. Devoid of a sound legal framework and sufficient enforcement to uphold these laws, there is no deterrent for traders of ploughshare tortoises and other non-native, CITES-listed species.
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Commercial trade, almost always for pets, represents a major threat to bird species and subspecies in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Java and Bali, Indonesia. Thirteen species—Silvery Woodpigeon Columba argentina, Javan Hawk-eagle Nisaetus bartelsi, Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil, Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea, Scarlet-breasted Lorikeet Trichoglossus forsteni, Javan Green Magpie Cissa thalassina, Black-winged Myna Acridotheres melanopterus, Bali Myna Leucopsar rothschildi, Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus, Javan White-eye Zosterops flavus, Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush Garrulax rufifrons, Sumatran Laughingthrush Garrulax bicolor and Java Sparrow Lonchura oryzivora—are identified as at greatly elevated risk of global extinction from trade pressures, plus the nominate Javan race of Crested Jay Platylophus galericulatus, the races tricolor, hypolizus, opisthochrus, melanurus, omissus and barbouri of White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus, race jalla of Asian Pied Starling Gracupica contra, races miotera, robusta and (extralimital) venerata of Hill Myna Gracula religiosa, and races rookmakeri and laurinae of Silver-eared Mesia Leiothrix argentauris. Scarlet-breasted Lorikeet Trichoglossus forsteni race djampeanus, White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus races opisthochrus, omissus and nigricauda and Hill Myna Gracula religiosa race miotera may already be extinct. However, this is a conservative list because (a) some candidates simply lack information to indicate trade as a threat, (b) taxonomic revision will probably increase the number of full species at risk from trade, and (c) taxonomically undifferentiated populations were not included in this review. As certain favoured species disappear, others are targeted as next-best substitutes (e.g. Grey-cheeked Bulbul Alophoixus bres for Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus), and commercial breeders may hybridise taxa for better effects (e.g. non-Indonesian subspecies of Asian Pied Starling Gracupica contra with Indonesian race jalla). Law enforcement, public awareness campaigns, in situ management, conservation breeding, conversion of trappers to wardens and field, market and genetic surveys are all needed, but commercial breeding, while attractive in theory, presents difficulties that are probably insurmountable in practice.
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The illegal and unsustainable trade in primates is increasingly recognized as an urgent threat to their conservation. From 1997 to 2008, 66 surveys were conducted at bird markets in Medan, North Sumatra, where primates are sold openly. In total,1953 primates of 10 species were observed, the most common of which were the long-tailed macaque Macaca fascicularis (774 ind.), the greater slow loris Nycticebus coucang (714 ind.) and the pig-tailed macaque M. nemestrina (380 ind.). Six of the species observed are totally protected in Indonesia, yet were openly traded. Trade in the remaining 4 species is regulated through a harvest and trade quota system, but no quotas are allotted for them to be traded as pets. Therefore, all trade in primates observed in these markets is deemed illegal. The Indonesian authorities should be encouraged to take action against this illegal trade in Medan. Markets selling illegal wildlife should be closed down, and individuals found illegally trading in primates should be prosecuted.
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We report on the commercial trade in three reptile species harvested for different purposes in western Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan) for international markets: (1) Tokay geckos, Gekko gecko, traded for medicinal uses, (2) Javan filesnakes, Acrochordus javanicus, harvested for skins, and (3) Asiatic softshell turtles, Amyda cartilaginea, harvested for meat; each species is also exploited for the pet trade, but to a lesser extent. All three species are harvested from wild populations. None of these species are protected by Indonesian law, but there is a national harvest and export quota system in place to prevent overexploitation. For each species, we collected data from catchers, middlemen and exporters on harvest volumes, catching locales, turn-over and prices, and compared these figures with the quota allocated by the Indonesian authorities. The trade in G. gecko from Central and East Java (3 traders, 2006) amounts to around 1.2 million individuals annually, greatly exceeding the national quota of 50,000 G. gecko for the entire year and representing a monetary value for exporters of around one million USD / year. The annual trade in A. javanicus (in five cities in East and South Kalimantan, and North Sumatra, Riau (central Sumatra) and South Sumatra, 2005-6) was estimated at around 300,000 individuals from Kalimantan and 30,000 from Sumatra, exceeding the national quota of 200,000 individuals / year and representing a monetary value for exporters of at least three million USD / year. The trade in A. cartilaginea was monitored in three cities in North Sumatra and Riau in 1999: 200- 450,000 individuals were traded in 1998 and 1999, greatly exceeding the national quota of 10,000, with a monetary value for exporters in excess of ten million USD / year. We conclude that implementation of wildlife trade regulations by and large are not abided by many reptile traders and are not sufficiently enforced by the Indonesian authorities. We further note that the quota-setting process rarely involves non-detriment findings based on reliable biological information. In order for reptile trade to be sustainable in Indonesia, it is paramount that non-detriment findings are undertaken and existing regulations are sufficiently enforced.