Indonesia foils illegal Facebook sale of komodo dragons

A stuffed exotic bird is among others seized by Indonesian authorities during an anti-smuggling operation. (AFP)
Updated 27 March 2019
0

Indonesia foils illegal Facebook sale of komodo dragons

  • The vast Southeast Asian archipelago nation’s dense tropical rainforests boast some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world
  • Five smugglers were arrested in Semarang and Surabaya on Java island for allegedly trafficking the komodos

JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities said Wednesday they had seized five komodo dragons and dozens of other animals being sold on Facebook, as the country battles to clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade.
The vast Southeast Asian archipelago nation’s dense tropical rainforests boast some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world and it has for years been a key source and transit point for animal trafficking.
Five smugglers, identified only by their initials, were arrested in Semarang and Surabaya on Java island for allegedly trafficking the komodos — the world’s biggest lizard — along with bearcats, cockatoos and cassowary birds.
“The suspect VS sold the komodos online through Facebook,” East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said in a statement.
The dragons, which can only be found in their natural habitat on a cluster of islands in eastern Indonesia, were sold for between 15 and 20 million rupiah ($1,000-$1,400), Mangera said.
In a separate case, three other people were arrested in East Java over the alleged online sale of otters, leopard cats and pangolin, Mangera said.
If convicted, the smugglers could face up to five years in prison and a 100-million-rupiah fine.
The haul of komodo dragons comes just a day after authorities seized more than 5,000 endangered pig-nosed turtles from smugglers in Indonesia’s easternmost province Papua.
The pig-nosed turtle — which has a distinctive snout-like nose and webbed feet — is only found in Australia and New Guinea, an island shared between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and is protected under Indonesian conservation laws.
Indonesia’s illegal trade in wildlife along with habitat loss has driven numerous endangered species, from the Sumatran elephant to the orangutan, to the brink of extinction.
Authorities in Bali, a popular holiday island, last week arrested a Russian tourist who attempted to smuggle a drugged orangutan out of Indonesia in his suitcase to keep as a pet.


Avengers assemble for final battle in ‘Endgame’

Updated 24 April 2019
0

Avengers assemble for final battle in ‘Endgame’

  • “Avengers: Endgame” is the final installment of a wildly ambitious 22-film arc featuring the beloved superheroes of the Marvel universe
  • Pundits are predicting a debut weekend that could break records with the first billion-dollar opening in history

LOS ANGELES: After nearly two dozen films and billions of dollars in ticket sales around the globe, the Avengers are gearing up for a final time — and their last adventure could shatter all box office records.
“Avengers: Endgame” is the final installment of a wildly ambitious 22-film arc featuring the beloved superheroes of the Marvel universe, many of them the creations of late comic book legend Stan Lee.
It hits theaters this week — parts of Asia and Europe get the first view of the three-hour epic on Wednesday, and it gets its wide release in the US and Canada on Friday. Pundits are predicting a debut weekend that could break records with the first billion-dollar opening in history.
That would easily beat out the previous record holder, “Avengers: Infinity War,” the first part of the “Infinity Saga” — as it was dubbed by Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who has produced every single movie in the franchise — which opened in 2018 with $640.5 million.
After Monday’s star-studded world premiere in Hollywood, the six original Avengers celebrated the end of the road Tuesday at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre.
Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) assembled for a final time with Feige at the TCL Chinese Theatre, where they signed blocks of cement and marked them with handprints.
“It’s been an amazing ride,” Ruffalo — who attempted a handstand while waiting for the cement to set — said of the 10-year project.
The 21 preceding films have earned about $19 billion globally, and though “Endgame” marks the end of the current narrative arc, Marvel Studios is far from through.

Even as they mark the end of what Johansson called a “wonderful” experience, Marvel Studios has already announced several new projects: in addition to sequels for “Spider-Man,” “Black Panther” and “Doctor Strange,” there will also be “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” “The Eternals” and “Black Widow,” the second Marvel universe film to give a female character solo top billing.
“The fun thing about an ending is that you eventually get to do a new beginning,” Feige told AFP.
“So yes, there will be a new beginning, but right now, it’s about this combination of 22 movies. That’s what we’re most excited for.”
In preparation for the marvelous cinematic conclusion, “Endgame” directors Joe and Anthony Russo took to Twitter to post a letter to “the greatest fans in the world.”
“This is it,” they wrote. “This is the end. The end of an unprecedented narrative mosaic spanning eleven years and eleven franchises.”
They acknowledged the massive impact that the Avengers series has had on its fans, saying it was for “all of you who have been on this journey with us since the very beginning.”
Fans have been on the edge of their seats for the conclusion, and the cast has been notoriously tight-lipped during the press tour for fear of potential spoilers.
But someone couldn’t wait: on Sunday, five minutes of “Endgame” footage containing crucial plot points from the finale were anonymously posted online, prompting the Russo brothers’ letter.
The brothers concluded their message with an appeal: not to spoil the end of the movie.
“Remember,” the Russo brothers said, “Thanos still demands your silence. #DontSpoilTheEndgame.”