Soldiers in Aceh jailed for owning rare animals
The Banda Aceh Military Court in Aceh sentenced on Thursday two Indonesian Military (TNI) soldiers from Central Aceh for the possession of protected animals, which had been killed and stuffed for decoration. They were found guilty of violating Article 40 of Law No. 5/1990 on wildlife protection.
Defendant Sgt. Maj. Joko Rianto was sentenced to two months in jail and fined Rp 5 million (US$454) for keeping a stuffed Sumatran tiger, which is an endangered animal.
His fellow defendant, Chief Pvt. Rawali, was handed a heavier sentence of three months in prison and a fine of Rp 2.5 million for possessing a stuffed Sumatran tiger and a bear. Rawali received a heavier punishment than Joko as he had once been convicted for instigating a riot in his unit.
During the open hearing, military prosecutors produced evidence in the form of the two stuffed tigers and bear.
“We obtained the evidence from the homes of the defendants. The stuffed animals were seized by military police personnel during a raid of their residences,” said presiding judge Let. Col. Budi Purnomo on Thursday.
According to Budi, the military tribunal conducted to try an environmental crime committed by military personnel was the first of its kind in Aceh and it was expected to serve as a lesson to the convicted soldiers and any others tempted to do the same thing.
“As citizens, military personnel are obligated to preserve and protect the environment by not rearing or keeping endangered and/or protected animals in any form, whether alive or dead,” Budi said.
The two stuffed tigers and the stuffed bear were seized by the military court and later handed over to the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency.
“These specimens are rare and may be used as educational exhibits for the future generation,” he said.
Separately, conservationist Retno Sagito expressed his deep appreciation to the Aceh Military Court for being willing to handle a crime against the environment committed by TNI personnel.
“This is a very good step and provides a fine example for other military courts in Indonesia concerned with and committed to environmental protection,” Retno said.
She added that it was commonplace for members of the TNI to keep pets in the form of protected animals, such as tigers and bears. But, she went on, this was primarily due to the fact that such cases, concerning the ownership of protected animals, had rarely if ever been prosecuted and were virtually untouched by the law.
“We hope that this case will make military personnel, and everyone else, think twice before seeking to own wild and endangered animals,” Retno concluded.