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Bali's Five Ton Elephant in the Gloom

Bali Squares Off with Jakarta Over Island's Refusal to Allow the Importation of More Elephants.

Bali News: Bali, Elephants, Made Pastika, Suardhika, BKSD
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As reported on, Bali's Governor and Legislators have rejected Jakarta's authorization for the importation of 59 additional elephants to add to an existing population of 93 animals. [See: Leave Your Elephant at Bali's Door]

Radar Bali reports that the Indonesian Nature Conservancy Agency (BKSDA) is claiming the provincial government of Bali is not empowered under the law to reject their recommendations.

According to the BKSDA, their agency, acting with the authorization of the Director General of Jungle and Nature Conservancy (PHKA), have the exclusive power to grant permits for the movement of protected species.

Quoted by Radar Bali from a press conference the Bali Chief of the BKSDA, Istanto, said : "So, in fact, the provincial government does not have the right to approve or deny the import (of protected species) to Bali. This authority belongs to the local BKSDA. In the past, the conservation agencies that makes requests (for adding elephants) have complained, asking why they need permission from the provincial government."

Istanto also showed the press a document affirming that zoos and other similar operations are entitled to add to their animal collections drawn from nature or other zoos without the recommendation of regents or local governors. All that's needed, he claims, is to make a request to the Director General of the PHKA. "The provincial government can only provide input and recommendation to the Director General or Minister. They do not have the right to reject," he added.

The BKSDA also pointed out that the elephants used by zoos and conservation groups are animals that have been tamed and trained. He insisted that such elephants are substantially different from wild elephants.

Istanto continued: "The chance of conflict with local residents is very small. The elephants at conservation agencies (e.g., zoos) cannot be equated with wild elephants in their normal environment. This is even more so the case with elephants in conservation agencies that are accompanied by competent Ďmahouts.'"

Istanto, however, did concede that as a result of his personal visit to the Bali Zoo Park his preliminary conclusion is that the Zoo is not yet able to add elephants to its collection. "The physical size of the area for elephants (at the Bali Zoo Park) is only three hectares. Ideally, 10 elephants need an area of one hectare. If they are able to add six more hectares, only then can they get elephants," he explained.

Hold Onto Your Elephants, Hannibal

Bali's House of Representatives (DPRD) has responded angrily to Istanto's public statements, seen to be undercutting their powers. The DPRD has reportedly summoned Istanto to the DPRD to clarify his position.

A member of the Golkar faction from the DPRD, Ida Bagus Kesuma, said Istanto and the BKSDA need to seriously study the concept of Tri Hita Karana - a philosophy that guides the life of the Indonesian people. That concept dictates the necessity of maintaining a balance in relationships between men, between men and nature, and between men and God.

Reminding Istanto in local terms that "wherever man stands upon the earth, the sky also is suspended above," he strongly questioned the BKSDA's contention that the Governor and the DPRD have no right to reject the importation of more elephants to Bali. Continuing and warning the BKSDA, Kesuma, quoted in Radar Bali, said: "So who's in charge in Bali? The BKSDA? We are prepared to back-up the Governor. And we will go all out to reject the elephants and the desires of the BKSDA.

Kesuma, who is a member of Commission III charged with environmental protection, rejected how the BKSDA in Jakarta has presented itself as the only party with the power to decide the controversy regarding the importation of elephants to Bali. Kesuma launched a verbal broadside at the BKSDA saying: "Tomorrow, what animal will they (BKSDA) bring to Bali? Bali is not a natural habitat for elephants. If the governor refuses, it is the same as the people of Bali refusing. I want to hear the BKSDA speak at the House of Representatives. What do they base their study on? Science? Minister's recommendations? And, the Governor has no authority? We want to hear (this) directly from the BKSDA in the House."

Joining the growing conflict, the Chairman of Commission I at the DPRD dealing with permits and licenses, said they also back the governor's refusal of more elephants, questioning the reasons behind the BKSDA's apparent desire to go head-to-head with the island's chief executive.


When Istanto was summoned last week to meet with local environmental officials in Bali, he supposedly denied ever questioning the Governor's authority in the importation of more elephants.

The Bali Environmental Agency (BLH) has publicly affirmed the governor's right to control the province of Bali and demanded that the BKSDA make a public statement assuring they are not opposed to Governor Pastika's rejection of more elephants.

While local media await a further formal clarification from Istanto, the BKSDA chief in Bali is now denying having ever made statements in the press attributed to him that questioned the governor's authority in the matter.

Poor Mr. Istanto

An article in Radar Bali quotes the provincial spokesman for Bali, Putu Suardhika, as depicting Istanto as a man who both lies publicly and does not understand the law.

In terms that were unusually pointed by local standards, Suardhika presented coverage of recent press conferences in which Istanto was directly quoted undermining the authority of the Governor, statements the BKSDA chief in Bali now denies. Moreover, according to Suardhika, the regional autonomy law of 2007 clearly provides for the provincial government to give its technical recommendations regarding the operation of local zoos.

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