6 suspected poachers arrested over killing of 26 Javan rhinos

6 suspected poachers arrested over killing of 26 Javan rhinos. Indonesian authorities announced on Wednesday the arrest of six individuals suspected of involvement in an international rhino poaching network, a grave concern for wildlife advocates fearing the species’ survival.

Police arrest 6 suspected poachers Police arrest 6 suspected poachers | Photo: Polda Banten

The targeted victims are the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros, one of five rhino species teetering on the brink with a population as low as 76, as reported by Save the Rhino, a UK-based conservation charity dedicated to safeguarding rhinos in Africa and Asia.

The apprehended suspects are part of a syndicate employing homemade firearms to slaughter at least 26 Javan rhinos since 2018 to obtain their coveted horns. These horns command significant demand in Asia, primarily for their application in traditional Chinese medicine and increasingly for ornamental purposes, disclosed Abdul Karim, the police chief of Banten province.

The six men were detained in a coordinated operation conducted by law enforcement authorities and the Ministry of Forestry and Environment last month. Yudhis Wibisana, Banten’s director of criminal investigation, relayed to reporters this week that one suspect confessed to the killing of 22 animals and subsequent horn sales, while another admitted to the slaughter of four rhinos, as per AFP.

Efforts are underway to locate eight additional members of the poaching syndicate, with police collaborating with a ranger team from Banten’s Ujung Kulon National Park. Sunendi, identified as one of the syndicate’s leaders, was apprehended last year and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment along with a 100-million rupiah fine, equivalent to $6,135.

According to Karim, an inquiry revealed that Sunendi, known by a single name like many Indonesians, and nine accomplices were responsible for the demise of 22 Javan rhinos from 2018 onwards.

Additionally, another group claimed responsibility for the killings of four more rhinos since 2021. These illicitly obtained horns were then trafficked to Chinese buyers through a local intermediary, who is presently undergoing trial proceedings.

Police confiscated homemade firearms, bullets, gunpowder, a steel sling noose, and other paraphernalia utilized in rhino poaching.

Rasio Ridho Sani, head of law enforcement at the Forestry and Environment Ministry, highlighted the dwindling population of Javan rhinos, echoing estimates akin to those of Save the Rhino. In an interview with The Associated Press, he disclosed that approximately 80 mature Javan rhinos remain, predominantly inhabiting Ujung Kulon National Park in the western region of Java, Indonesia’s main island. Sani emphasized the dual threats of habitat destruction and poaching endangering the Javan rhino species.

“Poaching of protected animals is a grave offense with global repercussions,” asserted Sani. “We are collaborating closely with Banten Regional Police to locate and apprehend the perpetrators who evaded capture during the operation.”

Jo Shaw, CEO of Save the Rhino, reacted to the arrests of the poaching suspects, expressing dismay at the staggering toll inflicted on the Javan rhino population within a short span. “It’s heart-wrenching to discover that criminal syndicates claim to have decimated one-third of the entire remaining Javan rhino population, imperiling the species’ future,” Shaw lamented.

“While the arrests of poaching network members around Ujung Kulon National Park signify progress, it’s imperative that they face full prosecution, and that agencies collaborate to dismantle the networks responsible for funneling rhino horns into the illicit market in China.”