Thousands of protected birds and 12 macaques rescued from Indonesian poachers in undercover operations

22 October 2021

FLIGHT, our partners in Indonesia, have been very busy recently. 

In just three weeks, the team rescued around 6,000 exotic birds and 12 macaques from illegal traffickers in three separate undercover operations, working tirelessly and sometimes in dangerous situations to stop the traders in their tracks.

12 macaques saved from a desperate future

15 September: FLIGHT investigators in Riau uncovered plans by an illegal trafficking ring to smuggle 11 long-tailed macaques and one southern pig-tailed macaque from Riau in Central Sumatra to Jakarta, an almost 24-hour journey.

The monkeys had been stolen from the wild and were headed for the wildlife markets of Jakarta. Here they would have likely been sold as exotic pets, destined for a miserable, isolated life behind bars.

FLIGHT alerted the Lampung Nature Conservation Agency and the local police to inform them of the proposed smuggling operation and the next day a bus containing the monkeys was stopped in transit.

The macaques were taken to the Sumatra Wildlife Center which is managed by the Jakarta Animal Aid Network before they will stay for a while to be monitored and integrated with other social groups before being released back to the wild where they rightfully belong.

A car chase and the rescue of 5,402 birds

26 September 11am: FLIGHT investigators based in Jambi, Central Sumatra, headed to a toll gate in Lampung, South Sumatra after receiving intelligence that a large shipment of exotic birds was being trafficked across to the neighbouring island of Java to be sold as pets. 

The team discovered the smugglers’ vehicle details and worked out the route they were most likely to take. They tried to track the vehicle for the next ten hours until they finally located it heading to the border crossing. 

The smugglers must have realised that they were being tailed as they tried to speed away and lose the FLIGHT Team, but FLIGHT was not going to let them get away that easily! For the next four hours FLIGHT chased the smugglers having already alerted the local police who had also taken chase.

Eventually, at 1:00am on 27 September FLIGHT and the police closed in on the traffickers and were shocked to find an astonishing 5,402 birds crammed into tiny plastic and cardboard boxes in the back of the van. The traffickers were arrested and FLIGHT took the birds to the Wan Abdul Rahman Forest Park where they were released back into the wild later that day.

Meanwhile, nine hours north...

Just as the Jambi FLIGHT team was winding down after an exciting, successful and long day, their colleagues in Riau were being alerted to yet another smuggling operation. They received information that a local illegal pet trader was about to smuggle 875 birds to Jambi. 

The FLIGHT team had already been monitoring the warehouse of this seller for a week, so immediately contacted the Riau police and together they headed out to intercept the trader en route. 

They recovered the birds and took them to the Buluh Cina Nature Park where they too were released back into the wild. 

Another 500 birds saved

4 October: FLIGHT investigators in Lampung received word that a smuggling operation of exotic birds would be taking place that night at the border.

The team headed to the border and began to wait. After several hours, there was no sign of the vehicle so the operation was halted for the day. 

The next day, the team headed out again and waited patiently for the arrival of the smuggler and the birds. Yet again, after a few hours the vehicle was a no-show. The team had already contacted the local police force who suggested they meet at the seller’s warehouse.

On arrival at the warehouse, FLIGHT uncovered small cages holding 500 birds that had been captured from the wild. Four of the species recovered were protected under Indonesian law.

The suspect was arrested and the birds were handed over to the Nature Conservation Agency of West Sumatra and released into the wild later that day at the Gunung Marapi Nature Park.

An astonishing few weeks and a tenacious team

Dave Neale, Animals Asia’s Director of Animal Welfare, commended FLIGHT’s achievements over the past few weeks and the many other successes they’ve had since their inception:

“FLIGHT is an incredible organisation whose values of tenacity and compassion and aims of protecting vulnerable animals are very much aligned with Animals Asia’s. We look forward to following and supporting their continued efforts to keep wild animals where they belong: in the wild.”

Read more:

Pangolin scales, songbirds and baby gibbons recovered in undercover raid on illegal wildlife traders in Indonesia