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La Cage Aux Folles

Law Enforcement Against Illegal Animal Trade Still Weak. Experts Bemoan Failure to Punish Those Who Keep Endangered Animal Species as Pets.

(4/2/2005) While the official punishments that await people who keep protected animals under Indonesian law are very tough, actual law enforcement against those committing such illegal acts remain weak. This weak enforcement is the chief cause of the growing number of violation of statues forbidding the keeping of protected species.

As reported in the Indonesian-language Bali Post, the head of Bali's Legal Aid Society (LBH), Gede Widiatmika, said, "according to research carried out by protected species enthusiasts in Bali there is a growing tendency that the ownership, use and trade in illegal species is on the increase."

Speaking at a meeting on the protection of endangered species held on Tuesday, March 29, 2005, at the Inna Natour Hotel, the legal aid chief explained that current law provides for punishments of 5 years in prison or Rp. 50 million (approximately US$ 5,300) for private citizens discovered to be involved in keeping or trading protected species. Penalties for government officials convicted of these crime are even more severe providing for 10 years imprisonment or a fine of Rp. 200 million (approximately US$21,300).

Another speakers from the Udayana University Faculty of Law, I Made Arya Utama, suggested that criminal penalties provided for within existing environmental protection legislation provided for penalties that allowed up to 15 years in prison and fines of Rp. 750 million (approximately US$ 79,800).

Despite the heavy penalties provided for under the law, Widiatmika said the threat of such punishment is largely ignored. He explained, "the proof is that many protected animals we encounter in many areas are owned by certain well-known individuals." He underlined his point by pointing to the widespread practice of keeping the endangered Bali Starling practiced by many people in Bali.

On the other hand, according to Widiatmika, there is blatant discrimination in how the law is enforced. While wealthy illegal pet owners go unpunished, less prosperous people caught stealing Bali Starlings from the Bali National Park or dealing in protected turtles are given prison terms of several years in prison.

 

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