Indonesia: Bodies of 14 Sumatran Tigers Confiscated, Suspect Arrested

The bodies of 14 critically endangered Sumatran tigers — along with other animals prized in traditional Chinese medicine — were found in the home of a suspected wildlife trafficker.

A police raid on the house of a suspected wildlife trafficker near Jakarta yielded the bodies of 14 Sumatran tigers, three leopards, one clouded leopard, three bears, one lion, one tapir and a tiger’s head.

Tigers and bears are prized in traditional Chinese medicine, while leopards and lions are frequently used as substitutes for tiger-derived ingredients.

The Sumatran tiger subspecies (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

One suspect, identified as “F.R.” by the Straits Times, was arrested and believed to be linked to a larger criminal network dealing in wildlife. Update: The Jakarta Globe reports that the suspect’s name is “Feri” and he is believed to be a taxidermist. “Two sacks full” of tiger skins, plus four deer heads, were also found. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and $10,600 in fines.

Tigers, leopards, bears, and lions

Wild tigers and leopards are killed for their bones and body parts, for use in traditional Chinese medicine. The bones are also used in luxury goods, such as “tiger bone wine”. Tigers are commercially farmed in China for this illegal market, while at least 70 of India’s leopards have already been massacred during the first six months of 2012.

Bears are killed around the world, and legally farmed in China, so that bile from their gallbladders can be used in traditional Chinese medicine, and their paws eaten as a “delicacy”. In the United States, dead bears are frequently discovered with their gallbladders and paws removed. Bear crimes are common in countries closer to China, such as India, where six bears were recently killed for their gallbladders.

Lion bones are being increasingly used as a substitute for tiger bones in the illegal market. South Africa has capitalized on this situation by supplying lion bones to Southeast Asia and China via canned hunts, while other predator breeders opt to euthanize their big cats to profit from the bones.

According to CITES trade data, South Africa exported two live captive-bred lions to Indonesia in 2008 and one in 2009, although the transactions were not reflected on the Indonesia side as of this writing.


Image by Dick Mudde via Wikimedia Commons

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Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.