Wildlife traffickers caught in operation involving speedboats, hidden compartments and corrupt officials

10 July 2019

Animals Asia’s partner rescues 384 birds from traffickers, the latest blow to illegal smuggling rings who would silence Indonesia’s jungles.

Animals Asia’s Indonesian partner FLIGHT continued their incredible work to protect birds from traffickers with an operation which rescued 384 birds bound for songbird markets in the capital.

Following health checksall but five of the birds were released back into the wild to enjoy their freedom and resume their pivotal position in Indonesia’s jungle ecosystem.

 Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“Huge numbers of birds are being illegally poached from Indonesia’s forests presenting a massive risk to vital ecosystems. The poachers operated with near impunity before our partner FLIGHT began hitting back last year and they have consistently worked with officials to disrupt smuggling routes and save thousands of birds. 

“Funding provided by Animals Asia makes this work possible and is hugely beneficial to both stopping poaching and preventing long-term cruelty to captive animals.”

Officials stack discovered crates of birds 2

The latest rescue came after FLIGHT investigators identified two passenger buses transporting songbirds from the island of Sumatra to Java, the country’s largest island.

Under direction from covert FLIGHT operatives, quarantine officials were alerted and able to apprehend one of the buses at Bakaheuni Port on the morning of July 1.

They found 136 birds on board including Sumatran sparrows, blue-masked leafbirds, olive-winged bulbuls and sunbirds.

When the second bus arrived, however, an official claimed to find no illegal cargo and allowed the bus to board the ferry to Java.

Suspecting the official had been bribed, FLIGHT investigators quickly boarded a speed ferry to Java which enabled them to arrive before the bus.

Having alerted their partners at Merak Port, quarantine officials thoroughly searched the bus, finding 248 birds stashed in a hidden compartment above the wheel arch and secreted under the driver’s bed.

Crates of birds hidden under wheel arch

Following the rescue, all 248 birds were health checked and released back into the wild while the officer suspected of corruption has been reported.

Marison Guciano, Director of FLIGHT Indonesia, who conducted the rescue, said: 

“This rescue was hugely difficult involving weeks of investigation and an all-night operation to finally catch the traffickers in the act. As we intercept more shipments we are beginning to see the criminals taking increasingly desperate measures to avoid detection. 

“But there are no steps they can take which will prevent us from interrupting their illegal operations and saving the birds they seek to exploit.

“These birds are an essential part of Indonesia’s heritage and ecosystems and must be protected at all costs. We can’t allow them to be caged for life as songbirds, unable to fly or express basic natural instincts. No animal deserves that fate.”

FLIGHT believes up to 10,000 Sumatran songbirds are illegally poached from the wild and smuggled into Java to supply the demand for bird markets every week. 

Since beginning operations in 2018, FLIGHT has rescued over 10,000 birds who would otherwise have spent their entire lives in tiny cages. 

READ MORE: FLIGHT: Meet the people working tirelessly to stop Indonesia’s jungles falling silent