THREE men involved in trading Sumatran tiger parts were intercepted while transporting an assortment of organs in a minibus in Riau over the weekend.
A stretch of dried tiger hide, four fangs and a sack of bones were recovered from the suspects by police in the Pasir Penyu district in Indragiri Hulu regency, according to The Jakarta Post.
Riau Police chief Inspector General Agung Setya Imam Effendi said the three men, aged between 43 and 57, were part of a syndicate involved in trading Sumatran tiger organs.
“They acted as couriers who transported tiger organs from Jambi to Indragiri Hulu,” Agung said, adding that a team of investigators trailed the suspects since Friday after receiving a tipoff on their activity.
“Our investigation found that (the suspects) had been transporting the tiger organs in a minibus and that the trio were supposedly delivering the parts to Jambi from Muara Tebo.
“We arrested the suspects and seized several pieces of evidence in Jalan Arjuna, Candi Rejo subdistrict, on Saturday around 11am.”
Riau Police spokesman Senior Commissioner Sunarto said the suspects admitted to being couriers and that they were each paid two million rupiah for their task.
He said the recent boom in illegal tiger skin and organ trade could be attributed to the growing demand for such items in the black market.
A piece of tiger hide could sell for between 30 million rupiah and 80 million rupiah, while tiger bones could sell for 2 million rupiah per kg and fangs for 500,000 to 1 million rupiah each, Sunarto said.
“The surge in black market prices was likely the main reason why these smugglers dared to commit such crimes.
“As a member of a larger international community, Indonesia has committed to putting an end to illegal tiger organ trade, given that the animal is facing extinction.”
The government stepped up efforts to crack down on groups involved in the illegal trade of tiger organs across Riau.
A joint team comprising personnel from the Environment and Forestry Ministry and the National Police tracked down and arrested suspected poachers and traders targeting Sumatran tigers.
They also confiscated four foetuses of the endangered species as well as tiger hides in the province in December.
The ministry estimated the Sumatran tiger population in Indonesia at less than 600 because of a loss of habitat and poaching.
A report in Nature Communications estimated there were 618 adult tigers in 2012, a 20 per cent drop from 742 in 2000.