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

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.


Taj Mahal damaged in deadly India thunderstorm

Updated 31 May 2020

Taj Mahal damaged in deadly India thunderstorm

  • India’s top tourist attraction has been shut since mid-March as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic

AGRA, India: A deadly thunderstorm that rolled across parts of northern India damaged sections of the Taj Mahal complex, including the main gate and a railing running below its five lofty domes, officials said Sunday.
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, India’s top tourist attraction has been shut since mid-March as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic.
AFP images showed workers assessing the railing of the main mausoleum, after the storm on Friday night battered Agra city in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
“One sandstone railing which was a part of the original structure has been damaged,” Superintending Archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India, Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, said.
“One marble railing which was a later addition, a false ceiling in the tourist holding area and the base stone of the main gate has also been damaged.”
He added there was no damage to the main structure of the monument to love — built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth in 1631.
Local media reports said thunderstorms and lightning on Friday killed at least 13 people in two Uttar Pradesh districts.
Fatal lightning strikes are relatively common during the June-October monsoon season.
Last year, at least 150 people were killed by lightning in August and September in Madhya Pradesh state in central India.