Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Malang
The government has been accused of not taking serious steps to preserve an endangered animal species, by failing to raise the risk-status of the loris.
Executive director of environmental group ProFauna Indonesia, Asep R. Purnama, said the government is being indecisive and the Forestry Ministry's Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation has not responded to the two letters the group sent in December 2006 and April this year.
"They have not stated clearly whether the government supports our proposal or not, and have only expressed their gratitude for the notification, despite the fact that Indonesia is a signatory of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)," said Asep.
A recommendation on the protection of the loris will be submitted at the 14th CITES conference in The Hague, the Netherlands, from June 3 to 15.
The respective CITES signatory countries and non-government organizations dedicated to the cause will meet to discuss new regulations for the protection of endangered animal species.
The loris is protected by a law, based on a 1973 Agriculture Ministry decree, and clarified by a 1999 government regulation on preserving flora and fauna species.
According to Asep, under the current law some parties are still permitted to trade the loris.
If the CITES conference in The Hague approves the recommendation to raise the risk status of the loris, international trade of the animal could be more tightly controlled.
"Only certain parties would be able to buy lorises. These include zoos and animal research institutions, but not individuals," said Asep.
The government needs to move quickly on this issue as there are still many countries that have yet to list the loris as an endangered species, evident from the rife trade and trafficking of the animal from Indonesia to the international market.
Asep cited a foiled attempt to smuggle 91 lorises from Indonesia to Kuwait through Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta in January 2003.
A similar incident occurred in June 2004, when police were able to prevent an attempt to smuggle three lorises to Korea and Japan through the same airport.
According to data from ProFauna, around 7,000 lorises have been caught and traded since 2000.
Sold for around Rp 175,000 (approximately US$20) each, the nocturnal slow-moving and tailless primate, which survives on bamboo clusters, is not only sold in animal markets, but also at shopping malls in major cities, such as Surabaya, Malang, Medan, Banjarmasin and Bandarlampung.
In Palembang, South Sumatra, the loris trade is carried out on a large-scale at the Enambelas Ilir market, where no less than 40 to 60 lorises are sold each month.
Asep said sale and ownership of a protected animal is unlawful based on a 1990 law on the conservation of natural resources and the ecosystem, and that perpetrators were liable to a five-year prison sentence and a fine of Rp 100 million.
Asep urged the Forestry Ministry and other relevant agencies to take action against those involved in the trade in lorises throughout the country.
"Saving endangered animals is not on the government's priority list, and the rife trade in endangered animals everywhere is clear evidence of this," said Asep.