Tue, 22 Aug 2000

Sutiyoso denies involvement in rare species trade

JAKARTA (JP): Governor Sutiyoso said he might file a lawsuit against a nongovernmental organization for accusing him of being involved in the illegal trading of endangered species from an East Java zoo.

"I'm very disappointed with this slanderous accusation because they (the NGO) didn't consult with me on the matter before publicly announcing it," the governor told The Jakarta Post at City Hall on Monday.

"It's a defamation of my good name and reputation. I may file a lawsuit against the organization," the retired three-star Army general added.

The allegation was aired last Tuesday by a Malang, East Java- based NGO, Animal Conservation for Life (KSBK).

In a statement signed by its director Rosek Nursahid, KSBK named Sutiyoso and other high ranking officials and military officers of having illegally purchased lions and tigers from Taman Safari Indonesia II in Prigen, Pasuruan, East Java.

KSBK described the trading as shameful, an insult to the efforts to preserve endangered species, and a violation of a 1990 animal protection law, Antara reported.

KSBK also called on the government to tighten up its supervision of endangered species held in zoos.

Separately, head of the City Protocol Office Margani Mustar said the Jakarta administration would soon send an official protest to KSBK.

"The City Forestry Agency may send the letter in a few days to express our official protest at their findings," he said.

"Actually, the administration doesn't want to have anything to do with such an organization which lacks even basic principles," he added.

Meanwhile, the director of city-run Ragunan Zoo in South Jakarta Ismianto rejected the NGO's accusation that the zoo has illegally purchased lions from the alleged traffickers.

"It's impossible for us to buy lions. We only add to our collection through exchange programs with either domestic or overseas zoos," he said in a written statement to the governor.

"Besides, we already have 13 lions in our possession. We had them long before Taman Safari did," he added.

On Thursday last week, Sutiyoso said that KSBK's allegation was illogical.

"Why would I buy the animals from East Java if I can easily get them from Ragunan Zoo or Taman Safari (a safari park) in Cisarua (West Java)?" asked the governor.

"It's rubbish. Where is the proof for these allegations? Come and search for it at my house if you like," he told reporters after a ceremony marking Independence Day.

Sutiyoso, however, admitted he was once offered a tiger for sale.

"A man once offered me a tiger but I sent the animal to the zoo. I love animals and I don't want to see them abandoned. Besides, I'm not very fond of that sort of animal," said the governor, who is known to be a bird lover.

"You know it's very expensive to keep a tiger," he added.

Antara quoted KSBK reports as saying that Malang police in East Java have arrested nine people in two separate operations who were allegedly involved in the trafficking of 16 stolen lions and tigers from the Prigen safari park.

Malang Police Detectives chief Sr. Insp. Anshori said his officers confiscated three one-year-old lions from a gang of criminals who sold them illegally for between Rp 1 million and Rp 3.6 million. The three lions were then returned to Prigen safari park.

The nine suspects were identified by their initials only, namely And, Dab, who was an employee at the Safari Park, and a businessman Edw. These three were arrested on Monday. Meanwhile, the mastermind Nng and five other safari park employees -- Swd, Sgn, Gn, Ddt and Nnk -- were arrested a few days earlier. (lup/nvn)