Indonesia’s Wildlife Crimes Unit

Black Market Tigers Video
A Wildlife Crimes Unit coordinator talks about fighting a dangerous trade in Indonesia.
Tarsius Indonesian Wildlife Crimes Unit Photo
Tarsiers are among the wildlife impacted by hunting and wildlife trade.

A spectacular variety of wildlife species live on the islands of Indonesia, from birds of paradise to tigers and elephants. As one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth, it also has one of the highest human populations—the fourth largest in the world. The island faces heavy development pressure, and increasingly, its people are harvesting the wealth of natural resources to supply a growing wildlife trade. The islands are now home to the highest number of internationally threatened mammals and birds, largely due to uncontrolled hunting. To help stem the trade, WCS and the Indonesian Department of Forestry work together as “Wildlife Crimes Units,” conducting on-the-ground enforcement as well as education campaigns.


Hunting and wildlife trade have tremendous impacts on the biodiversity of Indonesia. Tons of turtles and pangolins (a type of scaly anteater), are exported on a weekly basis, and about 1.5 million wild-caught birds are sold in a bird market every year in Java, according to the wildlife trade monitoring network known as TRAFFIC. A steady demand for tiger parts fuels a lucrative export trade from Sumatra to China, where tiger skins and bones are sold as souvenirs, talismans, and ingredients for traditional medicines.

While Indonesia does have a system of laws to control wildlife hunting and trade, enforcement is weak. In addition, many of its protected areas lack adequate resources and staff to prevent poachers from entering.


  • In key locations, establish Wildlife Crimes Units comprising teams of staff members from various government agencies, including the judiciary, as well as local NGOs and the media.
  • Mount a media campaign to raise awareness about the perils of wildlife crime and to promote strict controls.
  • Expand the network of Wildlife Crimes Units throughout Indonesia.

What WCS is Doing

WCS created the first Wildlife Crimes Unit in 2003. Since then, others have been established in southern and northern Sumatra, and WCS is working to create teams in Maluku and Jakarta. The units provide data and technical advice to law enforcement agencies to support the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes. They also work to raise community awareness of prohibitions against wildlife trade.

From the Newsroom

Baby Primates Rescued in IndonesiaJanuary 23, 2014

An international trader with ties to global crime syndicates was arrested today for smuggling live animals, including baby siamangs and komodo dragons.

Lesser-known Species Fall Victim to the Illegal Wildlife TradeOctober 23, 2013

Dwi Dhiasto of WCS’s Indonesia Program discusses the threat of extinction facing the pangolin, an extraordinary and rare dog-sized animal, in Asia and Africa.

Saving JuliusFebruary 23, 2012

As Indonesia steps up the fight against the illegal wildlife trade, one baby orangutan confiscated from the pet trade in Sumatra prepares for a return back to the wild.

Bird Smuggler Busted in SumatraJanuary 4, 2012

Indonesian authorities arrest a bird smuggler traveling through the island of Sumatra by bus, saving more than 20 rare birds—including the palm cockatoo—from becoming victims of the illegal wildlife trade.

Wanted: Tougher Enforcement Against Wildlife CrimeJuly 27, 2011

As organized crime steps up its game in wildlife trade, a WCS conservationist suggests fighting back through increased law enforcement and better use of resources.


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