Radiated tortoise. Photo: iStock.
Radiated tortoise. Photo: iStock.

The Indonesian government has been urged by a non-government organization to amend its laws to strengthen its protection of rare tortoises.

TRAFFIC, a United Kingdom-based charity group, made the call after two Indonesian smugglers were given small fines and suspended jail sentences for trafficking rare tortoises in two groundbreaking cases over the past two months.

On August 27, Daniel Rooseno was given a suspended three-month jail term and fined one million rupiahs (US$65) for receiving two radiated tortoises that did not have health certificates from a country of origin.

On October 4, Rudy Hartono received a suspended five-month jail term and was fined five million rupiahs (US$328) for possessing one ploughshare tortoise and five radiated tortoises, TRAFFIC reported.

Under Indonesian law, animals that are not native to the country are not protected. Prosecutors reportedly prosecuted the two under quarantine instead of wildlife laws, bypassing a legal loophole.

The cases were a good start but the loophole still exists, said Kanitha Krishnasamy, director of TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia. She argues that Indonesia should amend its laws to protect non-native species that are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, agreement.

The sentences were disappointing and won’t deter others who are experienced and deep within the illegal trade, she added.

A study published by TRAFFIC in March 2018 showed that 4,985 tortoises and turtles were being sold in three pet stores, two animal markets and two tropical fish markets in Jakarta between August and December 2015. A ploughshare tortoise could be priced between US$7,001 and US$28,003 while a radiated tortoise could fetch between US$516 and US$7,369.