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Indonesian Police Bust Ivory Trade Syndicate

Sumatran elephants have been pushed to the brink of extinction by hunters seeking their ivory.
Photo by Jambi Police.

Police in Jambi, central Sumatra, arrested three people allegedly involved in an ivory trading syndicate. Arwin Hendarno, Saini, and Mustafa Kamal were arrested at two separate locations. Ivory from three elephants were orders placed in Jakarta, according to police.

"Elephant ivory can sell up to Rp 25 million ($1,880 USD) per kilogram. Currently we are doing an investigation, but we're certain that these guys are part of a syndicate," said Head of Jambi Police, Yazid Fanani.


Sunarto, a researcher at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that from 2012 to 2014, most elephant deaths were cause by hunters poaching them for ivory. "It's mostly caused by wild hunting. As long as there's a demand (for ivory), whether it's to make pipes or jewelry, then wild hunting will still take place," Sunarto told Mongabay. According to Sunarto, conflicts between elephants and humans have fueled the ivory trade.

Aceh, one of Indonesia's only natural habitats for wild elephants, has seen the animal's natural habitats shrink as a result of land given to palm oil plantations. There are only 539 wild elephants in Aceh, according to Aceh's Natural Resource Conservation Body (BKSDA).

"We are concerned with ending the ongoing elephant-human conflict. All year long, we found dead elephants in farmers' plantation. This requires a serious action from all parties," said Head of Aceh's BKSDA, Aji Sapto Prabowo told Detik.

The demand for Sumatran ivory—averaging 170 cm each—is still high among collectors and those who believe that elephant ivory can cure various illnesses. This demand has pushed Sumatran elephants to the bring of extinction, labeling them critically endangered.

Data from Indonesian Elephant Conservation Forum (FKGI), shows that at least 150 elephants were killed from 2012 to early 2016. However, they believe the real numbers are much higher since many cases are not reported to officals.