Indonesia: Pangolin Traffickers Busted by Rhino Protection Unit

Rhino Protection Units apprehended pangolin trafficking suspects in a village near Bukit Barasan Selatan National Park. Photo courtesy of International Rhino Foundation.

Thanks to the efforts of Rhino Protection Units (RPUs) in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, members of a known pangolin trafficking syndicate have been apprehended.

In August 2012, RPUs and park rangers acting on an informant tip-off nabbed an armed suspect in a village just outside Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. The suspect was carrying 14 dead pangolins, 5 kg of pangolin flesh, and 1.5 kg of pangolin skins in his vehicle. He was also in possession of heroin and an automatic weapon. Uga Yogaswara, from the RPUs that patrol Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, describes the risky mission:

At 2:00 am there was no sign of the poachers, so we wondered if our informant was right. However, an hour later, a red mini-bus pulled up in front of a nearby house. Within minutes, someone came out of the house and got in the vehicle. As soon as he did, we moved in right behind. The suspect pulled a gun from his pocket, but one of the park rangers disarmed him before he could shoot me. There were 14 dead pangolins in the car, along with 5 kg of pangolin meat and another 1.5 kg of skins. We also found heroin and an automatic weapon.

Uga adds that the traffickers will be punished harshly for the possession of illegal wildlife, drugs, and weapons.

In addition to the dead pangolins and skins, the suspects were in possession of heroin and an automatic weapon. Photo courtesy of International Rhino Foundation.

Unfortunately, pangolins are under siege due to unsubstantiated claims originating in traditional Chinese medicine. Consumers believe that there are health benefits to eating pangolin scales, flesh, and fetuses. Pangolins are usually smuggled to the huge illegal wildlife markets of China, and can also be seen on the menus of illegal wildlife restaurants in Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam.

Learn more about the Rhino Protection Units at the International Rhino Foundation, and help support the RPUs with a 2013 Rhino Conservation Calendar.


Source: Uga Yogaswara, Rhino Protection Unit, Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. Translated by Sectionov, Indonesian Liaison, International Rhino Foundation. Provided by Bill Konstant, International Rhino Foundation.

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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.