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
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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.


Latest ‘Men in Black’ leads box office but fails to wow critics

Updated 17 June 2019
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Latest ‘Men in Black’ leads box office but fails to wow critics

  • Its box-office take for the three-day weekend fell short of ‘even the slimmest of studio expectations’

LOS ANGELES: “Men in Black: International” led North American box offices over the weekend, but the new sci-fi comedy was not as far into the black as Sony would have liked, taking in an estimated $28.5 million, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported.
In this spinoff to the three earlier “Men in Black” installments, the roles of black-suited alien-fighters pass from their originators, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, to the younger Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson also star.
Critics liked the chemistry of the two leads but gave the movie a lukewarm rating of only 24 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Its box-office take for the three-day weekend fell short of “even the slimmest of studio expectations,” website BoxOfficeMojo reported.
But as suggested by its title, the film, shot in five countries, is doing better overseas, with earnings of $73 million to date.
In second spot was last weekend’s leader, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” from Universal, at $23.8 million. This sequel features the voices of Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Patton Oswalt in another tale of the mischief pets get into when their owners are away.
In third, for the second week, was Disney’s live-action “Aladdin,” at $16.7 million. It stars Will Smith as the genie and Mena Massoud as the wily title character craving the attention of the enticing Jasmine (Naomi Scott).
Slipping two spots to fourth place was “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” at $9 million. In what is said to be the final installment in the X-men series, the lead characters face the fierce superhuman Phoenix after a space mission goes awry. The film stars James McAvoy, Sophie Turner, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and Jessica Chastain.
And in fifth, for the second week, was Paramount’s “Rocketman,” at $8.8 million. Taron Egerton stars in the biopic dramatizing the life of superstar singer Elton John.
Rounding out the weekend’s top 10 were:
“Shaft” ($8.3 million)
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” ($8.1 million)
“John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” ($6.1 million)
“Late Night” ($5.1 million)
“Ma” ($3.6 million)