An official at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry says socioeconomic factors play a major role in the rising number of wildlife crimes in Indonesia.
“Sometimes the offenders are just doing their jobs, and sometimes they do it for economic benefit,” said Istanto, director for forest security and prevention at the ministry. “The local government should provide alternatives and create employment opportunities for the people.”
However, while some local governments are keen to improve wildlife conservation efforts, they often lack the required funding.
Istanto cited Kerinci Seblat National Park in Sumatra as an example. Stretching over 1.1 million hectares – 12 times the size of Jakarta – the park only has about 50 forest rangers.
“We want to recruit more rangers, but the local government has a very limited budget. We have proposed to change this, because it’s hard to maintain such a large area,” he said.
The park has seen a handful of tiger traps, which Istanto believes are easy for poachers to set up because there are not enough rangers to properly monitor the area.
The director explained that offenders usually know that what they are doing is wrong, but that the need to provide for their families outweighs any sense of guilt.
However, Istanto believes that anyone choosing to commit a crime should face punishment.
“I think that those who are found guilty must be punished so that it would serve as a deterrent,” he said.
Istanto highly recommends awareness campaigns and discussions on the need for wildlife conservation to change the perspectives and attitudes among the broader public, to convince them of the benefits.
The ministry previously reported that there were 59 wildlife crime cases and 6,247 animals confiscated in 2016, causing concern among conservationists over the impact the illegal trade has on declining wildlife populations in Indonesia.