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Patrolling Indonesia’s natural heritage

Closing ranks on environmental crime

With a unique environment and biodiversity to protect, one species a day going extinct, and organized crime inextricably drawn to the enormous financial gains to be made in the illegal flora and fauna market, Indonesian law enforcement agencies have a tough undertaking in preserving the country’s extraordinary natural resources.

When it comes to protecting its natural habitat and heritage, Indonesia is a force to be reckoned with. Violators of the law on animal, fish and plant quarantines or the law on biodiversity and ecosystem conservation face up to three years’ imprisonment and enormous fines. The law on conservation means that if you get caught illegally hunting, killing, keeping or trading protected species, you face up to five years in prison.

More than a dozen ministries and agencies in Indonesia share responsibility for different aspects of environmental issues.   Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry is the lead law enforcement agency in protecting national environment, wildlife and natural resources.  It works regularly with INTERPOL Jakarta for environmental crime investigations requiring international outreach and input.

Through implementation of land and resource management strategies, the Forestry Ministry is in charge of making sure sustainable ecosystems are in place, protected and adhered to.  It has jurisdiction over national parks and an oversight role in the management of national reserves.  It determines policy and legislation on forestry and wildlife resources, and contributes to national awareness through conservation education programmes in forestry, wildlife and environment.

Heavy-duty law enforcement mandate

The Ministry employs 14,000 people in 184 locations in 33 provinces to protect Indonesia’s natural heritage, including more than 1,000 law enforcement officials operating in two different categories:  

  • law enforcement: uniformed high-visibility enforcement of laws;
  • investigations: plain-clothed detectives investigating crimes against wildlife and the environment.

In their line of duty, both categories can carry firearms, defensive equipment, make arrests, execute search warrants, complete reports, and testify in court.

The Forestry Ministry runs reintroduction programmmes in more than 50 national parks where police rangers pro-actively patrol, seek out and stop the poaching and illegal logging which threaten the biodiversity and resilience of Indonesia’s ecosystems. 

One of these parks is Indonesia’s Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, patrolled by police rangers employed by the Ministry of Forestry to protect the park’s inhabitants from their human predators.  

Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park rangers patrol the 230 km2 park 24 hours a day to address the constant threat of poaching, illegal logging and other acts of environmental crime. Rangers can spend weeks trekking in the forests and fields gathering information on poaching incidents and monitoring and analyzing poaching data.

Rangers have police training and powers, enforcing national laws as well as park regulations.  Their responsibilities include:

  • Protect, preserve, monitor and manage  the park’s natural resources and assets ;
  • Patrol the forest areas and keep abreast of crime trends in the area;
  • Investigate and collect evidence relating to forestry crime;
  • Plan, implement and manage field operations with a view to enhancing protecting of protected species;
  • Arrest perpetrators of forestry crime;
  • Develop co-operative relationships with local people to promote understanding of the long-term risks of environmental crime;
  • Respond to emergency situations;
  • Raise awareness about the dangers of environmental crime through the delivery of guided tours, demonstrations and talks to the general public.

Patrolling Indonesia’s waterways

The Indonesian Maritime Police (IMP) also shares some responsibility for environmental issues.  Its mandate is to patrol high traffic coastal areas and prevent the circulation of suspicious vessels – many of which could be transporting illegally acquired Indonesian timber or protected species to the rest of the world.

IMP patrols territorial seawaters surrounding more than 17,000 islands and a coastline of 80,000 km (the equivalent of twice the circumference of the globe). To overcome the geographic difficulties such a large expanse of water can impose, sophisticated communications systems are in place to ensure that the expanse of waterway does not get in the way of swift exchange of critical intelligence and data.

Working in high-speed shore patrol vessels to keep a close eye on strategic waterways, operational units are fully trained in investigation and operational procedures, with environmental crime high up on the global IMP training syllabus. 

Valuable operational intelligence is obtained  through partnerships with other national police agencies, including the INTERPOL National Central Bureau of Jakarta, the IMP’s vital link with law enforcement partners operating beyond Indonesian borders.    

Criminal investigation

The Indonesian National Police also shares some responsibility for enforcing environmental law as part of its mandate to preserve national security and public order.  Its Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is one of the national units with the remit to undertake nationwide investigations into environmental crime and the transnational criminal networks behind it.

INTERPOL Jakarta provides the CID with the international police platform it needs to seek police support from law enforcement colleagues worldwide.  Investigations requiring intelligence from beyond Indonesia’s borders are facilitated through INTERPOL Jakarta’s use of INTERPOL’s secure global police communications system (I-24/7) and access to INTERPOL’s police databases.

INTERPOL Jakarta provides CID with access to databases which can potentially enable field investigators to identify suspected members of organized illegal logging gangs, suspected brokers in destination countries and suspected traffickers of endangered species or timber.  The I-24/7 network gives the CID access to potential leads on legitimate cargo thought to be concealing endangered species or unauthorized timber, and similar investigative intelligence.