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Elephants from Sumatra

-how the ex/importation was invalidated-

ALIVE News June 2003

1. Were wild elephants coming to a moving zoo ?

On the 12th of May, we got a mail from FOKSI (The Indonesian Forum for Wildlife Conservation) informing us that 5 wild-caught elephants ,that belong to CITES I, were being exported from Sumatra to Cuddly Aso Bear Park in Japan on the 2nd of June.

We immediately contacted the division of trading to check in the Ministry of Economics that manages CITES and asked them if they received an application to import Sumatran elephants. As a result,we heard that they did not have the application and felt secure.Then, we informed FOKSI of the news.

2.There is a huge difference in the treatment of wild-elephants and captive-elephants.

However,on the 27th of May,FOKSI sent us an article from a newspaper reporting that a registration for import from Aso bear park had already been issued and the elephants were leaving Jakarta for Kansai airport on the 2nd of June.

Again we contacted the ministry of Economics and found that a registration had been submitted to an another division saying that the elephants were not wild but captive, so that they were being imported for the purpose of use for circus or exhibition at a moving zoo.

According to CITES,even animals that belong to "I" and are not allowed to be traded commercially, can be im/exported for the commercial purpose such as exhibition if they are captive bred. (for example, born in zoos.)

However,on these occasions,they need a breeding certificate proving when and where they are born.

Therefore, we needed to clarify if the elephants were wild taken or captive-bred in zoos.Because it violates CITES to use wild animals for the commercial purpose (such as for the exhibition).

3.False document?

On the registration applied to the Japanese government , the source of the elephants was printed "c" meaning "captive ".That is why the Japanese government accepted the registration without checking if it was true or not.

On the other hand, on the CITES export permit,"w"meaning "wild" was clearly printed.It means that the elephants are wild so that it is illegal to use them for the purpose of the exhibition at a moving zoos etc.

An Indonesian newspaper reported that this ex/importation was dealt between the Aso tourism department and the South Sumatra tourism department as an official contract. Even though this contract is truly "official" it should be abandoned if it violates cite convention.

Moreover,we read on an agreement that the contract was made between Mr.O as the chief of the Aso tourism department and a chief of South Sumatra local department. However, in fact, Mr.O is not a chief of the department of Aso city (in fact,Aso town) but the owner of Aso bear park. When we contacted Aso tourism department, they replied that they had never invited elephants from Sumatra.

4.Deliberated on the Diet

ALIVE has worked on such a kind of issue and always pointed out that no actual investigation has been done. Even though we have a law and regulation people check the issue only on paper, without any actual investigation.

If illegal ex/importation is done, the authorities will not be accused of misconduct because the papers are technically correct.

At this moment, questions and answers about partial revision of the law for the conservation of species is being planned by the Diet. ALIVE thinks that this issue is very opportune so we gave information to a national councilor. As a result, this issue was discussed at the sectional meeting of environment. The councilor gave strict questions to an officer of the ministry of Economics such as wether the elephants from Sumatra are wild, and if Aso bear park, where bears and dogs play show for the amusement of visitors, can be called a "scientific facility" even if they bred etc. The officers seemed impressed.

We think that the ministry of Environment should manage this kind of issue instead of the ministry of economics, which has little knowledge about animals and plants.


On the 6th of June, the Ministry of Economics informed us that the registration concerning the importation of elephants had been invalidated.They confirmed that the elephants are wild through a diplomatic route.

However,there is still the possibility that they will try to export the animals for "non commercial" purposes.The Ministry said that in this case they will investigate the place where the animals are transferred.

If the Japanese authorities try to import the elephants in the future, we will check to which zoo or facility the animals are transferred and put pressure on the authority to abandon their plan.


Forum Konservasi Satwaliar Indonesia or Indonesian Forum for Wildlife Conservation. It was formed in 1999 and is an independent organization involved in raising public awareness of wildlife conservation issues. Eighty per cent of its members are conservation journalists, while the remaining members are conservation experts, government officials, academics and researchers.

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