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Orangutan Trafficking and BOS-film transcript

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  • Michelle Desilets
    Dear Friends of the Orangutan, Here is a link to an important Australian produced film highlighting the work of BOS s Willie Smits, Lone Droscher Nieslen and
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1 6:01 AM
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      Dear Friends of the Orangutan,
      Here is a link to an important Australian produced
      film highlighting the work of BOS's Willie Smits, Lone
      Droscher Nieslen and Edwin Wiek as well as Profauna

      http://www.journeyman.tv/?lid=2706Indonesia - Taking
      on the Wildlife Traders - 30 min 06 sec [18 April
      2005] Wild orang-utans will be extinct within 20 years

      Dutch campaigner Willie Smits has dedicated his life
      to fighting Indonesia’s illegal wildlife trade. But in
      doing so, he’s taking on the army and has made many
      powerful enemies. Wild orang-utans sell for tens of
      thousands of dollars on the black market. “The network
      is very big and the biggest player is the army,”
      alleges Willie Smits. “They use their planes and ships
      to move animals all over Indonesia.” He’s developed a
      network of wildlife sanctuaries and undercover
      investigators to fight the trade. But his actions have
      attracted the wrath of the traffickers. “Cars have
      been sabotaged, houses set on fire. I’ve written my
      will and arranged my grave.” All the odds appear
      stacked against him. The scale of the trade had been
      drastically underestimated and it’s now feared that
      orangutans could soon be extinct in the wild. “We
      built a network that could cope with 50,000 but
      hundreds of thousands of animals are involved,” Smit
      laments. However, thanks to him SBS

      Indonesia - Taking on the Wildlife Traders - 30 min
      06 sec [18 April 2005] TRANSCRIPT
      This baby orangutan was confiscated from animal
      traders in North Sulawesi. She's worth tens of
      thousands of dollars on the black market, and she owes
      her life to this man, Willie Smits. But by taking on
      Indonesia's wildlife traders, Willie has made powerful
      enemies. Once I started taking orangutans from army
      people and police we got a lot of threats ... rocks
      thrown, dogs killed, car sabotaged, house set on fire
      etc Willie has dedicated his life to saving what
      remains of Indonesia's wild animals. As a result, he
      now lives with the prospect that every day, someone
      may try to kill him. Tell me about the preparations
      you've made in case something happens to you The usual
      stuff ... I wrote my will, and made my grave ... I
      wrote the letters for my boys ... Are you worried that
      something will happen to you? Yes, of course To
      understand why Willie's life is in danger, we need to
      go to Central Kalimantan. These baby orangutans have
      narrowly escaped death at the hands of the same people
      who have been threatening Willie. They’re victims of
      illegal wildlife traders. Their mothers have been
      killed, and they are now being cared for at this
      rehabilitation centre set up by Willie. There's
      thought to be around 50,000 orangutans left in Borneo
      and Sumatra, but at the current rate of death and
      destruction they're suffering, they'll be extinct in
      the wild within 20 years. Probably when they killed
      the mother, they used a machete, and they cut off her
      hand, and her foot as well ... s'ok siang, s'ok
      Willie's manager here is Lone Neilson. She looks after
      around 300 orangutans, and their stories have shown
      her some of the worst aspects of human nature. When
      Tip's mother was killed, they obviously used a shotgun
      ... one pellet grazed his eye, and is now lodged in
      his forehead ... that's why he's blind in this eye ...
      we probably could take it out, but there's no need to
      do operations and stuff Perhaps the most grotesque
      story is that of Pony... (Tells how Pony was used for
      prostitution) This footage was taken when Pony was
      sedated and confiscated from the logging camp. The
      wailing is from her owner, who's complaining that her
      livelihood is being taken from her. That last time we
      went out there we had 36 military police officers with
      us, and the whole village were out with their
      machetes... we got so many threats, the whole centre
      was under siege, we had military police stationed here
      for five weeks, 24 hours a day For now, Pony is in
      quarantine, but hopefully she'll soon be joining the
      other orangutans in the forest reserve nearby. Look at
      this one here, beautiful, have you ever seen one like
      this? ... Here in Sulawesi is another of the 15 rescue
      centres Willie has set up across the country, with the
      aid of funds from a wealthy Indonesian family. Each
      one is a modern day Noah's Ark, providing shelter to
      all kinds of rare and valuable animals until they can
      be safely released. ... look here, these are all birds
      of paradise on this side, worth hundreds of thousands
      of dollars here in this one cage ... these are all
      from Papua and the eastern islands .. very, very rare
      and difficult to keep... Willie came out from Holland
      over twenty years ago, to work as a forester in the
      jungles of Borneo. Not long after he arrived, he found
      a baby orangutan left to die on a rubbish heap. After
      nursing her back to health, he began a crusade against
      the illegal wildlife traders responsible. People
      understand that this is not just a place where they
      keep animals ... Along with the rescue centres, Willie
      has set up his own network of informants and
      undercover investigators. We have our intel unit,
      which can provide all the institutions with
      information... But he's begun to realise he's
      drastically underestimated the size of the problem,
      and that the odds are stacked against him. There are
      many more animals showing up in the animal trade than
      we ever expected…we built a network that could cope
      with 50,000 ... but it turns out there are hundreds of
      thousands involved every year. This is the Pramuka
      Market in Jakarta. I've come here to see where the
      wildlife traders do business. Filming openly here can
      result in a smashed camera and a beating, so I'm
      posing as a tourist with several of Willie's
      colleagues, and using a concealed camera. This is one
      of the biggest marketplaces in the world for protected
      wildlife. The network is very big, biggest player is
      the army, they use their planes and ships to move
      animals all over Indonesia ... several zoos involved,
      politicians ... it's gigantic.Within a few minutes of
      arriving, we're offered protected birds like these
      baby owls, as well as other animals from all over
      Indonesia.Some of the most expensive animals here are
      the larger primates, like gibbons and orangutans.
      These men told us they had a siamang, a type of
      gibbon, for sale, but that we'd have to follow them
      out the back of the market. Careful, he's still a bit
      stunned ... he's a pet. The day we visited the market,
      there were no orangutans available, but they were told
      they could be obtained for a price. The going rate was
      seven and a half million rupiah, or just over a
      thousand Australian dollars. Indonesia's orangutans
      are in huge demand across South East Asia, but one of
      the most extraordinary smuggling cases, still
      unresolved, involves the Safari World game park in
      Bangkok, Thailand. Describing itself as "the World of
      Happiness", Safari World stretches over 200 acres of
      game parks, where visitors can drive through lion and
      tiger displays. Over the last few years more than 150
      orangutans have been smuggled into Thailand from
      Indonesia, and most ended up here. This is why Safari
      World was so keen to get its hands on them. It's
      trained them to perform in these kickboxing shows,
      which were one of its most popular and profitable
      attractions.... After protests from Indonesia, the
      shows at Safari World Bangkok stopped in August. But
      many of the best performers have been quietly smuggled
      out to other locations, where the shows continue. This
      performance was recorded in December, just over the
      border in Cambodia. But in Bangkok, more than a
      hundred orangutans are still locked away in cages,
      their fate uncertain. Prosecuting Safari World for
      this smuggling has proved difficult. It's a major
      business, listed on the Thai stock exchange, and the
      owners are politically well connected. Major General
      Saweche Pinshinchai is the head of the Thai Forestry
      Police, and is responsible for investigating animal
      smuggling here. He knows first -hand how high those
      connections go. There is some pressure... When I
      started in this position, there was a lot of animal
      smuggling going on. I went to inspect several
      government and private zoos. We had a lot of arrests
      then, including at Safari World. So, the zoo operators
      all over the country got together and appealed to the
      Minister to have me removed.... They are very
      powerful, very influential. They are very well
      connected with politicians and government officials.
      Edwin Wiek also understands how well-connected Safari
      World's owners are. He's Willie Smits' representative
      in Thailand, and runs his own animal rescue centre,
      several hours drive from Bangkok. Edwin has been
      lobbying hard here for the Safari World orangutans to
      be returned to Indonesia, but he's paying the price
      for his efforts.On the basis of an anonymous
      complaint, he's been charged by the Ministry of
      Natural Resources with possessing wild animals without
      a permit. There is no official permit for rescue
      centres in Thailand ... however, the government
      themselves are not able to take all the animals in.
      ... but what makes the case particularly absurd is
      that the same department that charged him continues to
      dump confiscated animals at his centre. Rather than
      wait for the police to come and arrest him, Edwin has
      decided to drive into court himself. Well, I'm going
      to court today, I'm being arrested ... for saving wild
      animals, which is supposed to be a crime suddenly ...
      Why do you think you are being arrested? Well, I think
      there's another reason, it's because I've been pushing
      this case of the smuggled orangutans ... I've been
      warned to let go of this case, but I've been a bit
      stubborn, been a bad boy I guess. The judge and court
      officials are embarrassed by the case, and are
      extremely uneasy about the proceedings being filmed.
      If he sees you're filming, you'll lose your camera.
      While the negotiations continue over his fate, Edwin
      ends up in the cells under the court building. Several
      hours later, Edwin is bailed out. And in the
      topsy-turvey world of Thai justice, it's the head of
      the forestry police who puts up the money, paying
      around $20,000 US out of his own pocket. General
      Saweche also believes the charge is payback for
      Edwin's lobbying against Safari World. Edwin has done
      good things for the Thai people and for animals in
      Thailand. He is in fact helping all of us.... Some
      government agencies just like to stir up problems.
      Being behind bars in a country like this was
      absolutely not what I had in mind when I started this
      work When Willie Smits heard that Edwin was about to
      be jailed, he got on a plane to Bangkok with a
      colleague. But by the time they arrive, Edwin has been
      bailed out. The next day, they visit the Indonesian
      embassy to lobby the ambassador for support. Willie
      has already DNA tested the Safari World orangutans to
      prove they have been smuggled, and not bred in
      captivity, as the owners claimed. We have paid for the
      DNA testing, we are ready to pay for the transport;
      there is no reason why they should not be sent back
      now. Besides the case of Safari World, we are still
      talking about three more cases... ... Only delays,
      only excuses, only lies. Next stop for Edwin and
      Willie is the Forestry Police headquarters. They want
      to get into Safari World to check on the orangutans,
      and they need General Saweche's help. Just like to see
      the health, the condition of the orangutans, because
      in the past 14 already dead ... just like to see their
      condition now, hmm? Despite protests from Safari
      World, Willie and Edwin have been given permission to
      do an inspection. This is Central Kalimantan, where
      Willie hopes the Safari World orangutans will be
      released. It's just one of the forest areas his
      organisation has bought to maintain as protected
      sanctuaries. These ultralights make regular sweeps of
      the area, to watch out for illegal logging and fire
      Once the orangutans are almost ready to go back into
      the forest alone, Lone and her staff move them to
      these islands in the middle of the river. It's an
      island where they train for the last, maybe year, they
      learn how to find fruit in the forest, how to climb
      trees and make nests ... these guys have been here for
      two years and are doing really well ... they’re ready
      to be released, every single one of them. But not
      every orangutan rescue has a happy ending. When this
      orangutan, Tole, was confiscated from an animal trader
      in East Java in late 2003, she was overweight and in
      poor health. She was moved to this rescue centre in
      Malang, run by Willie's organisation. Not long after,
      she died. The death of an orangutan gave ammunition to
      the wildlife traders, who mounted a vicious personal
      attack on Willie and his colleagues. The news articles
      just went up and up, the whole campaign that we were
      involved in the animal trade, that we were murdering
      orangutans for medical reasons ... whatever, garbage!
      The local paper gave front-page treatment to the Tole
      case, running over 150 stories in less than 12 months.
      Then in an extraordinary turn, Greenpeace and other
      high profile conservation groups appeared to weigh
      into the debate. Statements were issued, criticising
      Willie and his colleagues, and calling for him to be
      expelled from Indonesia. This fax is supposedly from
      the Washington DC office of Greenpeace, and calls for
      Willie to be prosecuted. But it's a poor forgery, as
      Greenpeace's South East Asian office complained. The
      article "Greenpeace regrets orangutan's death in
      Malang" contains not only inaccuracies, but was based
      on a forged document. Please note that: Greenpeace did
      not issue the said letter. And after obtaining a copy
      of that letter, it is very obvious that it is a forged
      document. The letters of protest from other
      conservation groups were also later shown to be fakes.
      The campaign culminated in this extraordinary
      demonstration outside Willie's office at the Jakarta
      Zoo. A mob of students read out a list of accusations
      against Willie and his colleagues, claiming he was
      involved in the wildlife trade. And as this banner
      shows, they also demanded that "he be killed to save
      the earth". Outraged how these guys can be bribed to
      stand outside his office demanding he be killed, and
      then shake hands with the police as they pack up ...
      More than 12 months later, Willie and those working
      with him are still receiving anonymous threats,
      usually on their mobile phones. As I'm filming at the
      animal rescue centre in Bali, both he and Wita, the
      manager of the centre, receive the same message. The
      threats have not stopped Willie's operations against
      wildlife traders. His team has made an extraordinary
      find in the middle of one of the most crowded tourist
      areas in Bali. Out the back of a sausage factory,
      there's half a dozen lions and tigers hidden away in
      tiny cages. Willie has raided this place before, and
      it is now too dangerous for him to enter. Posing as
      tourists, we should be able to get in, but Willie has
      arranged for someone to keep an eye on us. The moment
      they recognise me, the police will show up. They will
      try to grab your camera, destroy it, and beat us up.
      They don't know you guys, so you’re safe to go in
      there ... we have a special guy, who is not known here
      yet, to accompany you. Don't stay too long, don't be
      suspicious, or there will be trouble. I'll be waiting
      here. As I walk up the alley, the investigator goes
      ahead to check things out. We are just metres from one
      of the busiest streets in Denpasar, and there are five
      lions and tigers locked up here. They are most likely
      destined to become trophy pets for senior Indonesian
      military officers. Chained to the side of one cage is
      a tiger cub. I'm quickly asked to stop filming, and
      the manager of the factory is sent for to find out who
      we are.(Upsot - "Stop - no camera ? OK, I'll turn it
      off")(Upsot from female manager - "Hello sir, where
      are you from?")Behind the manager, a man wearing a
      crash helmet and carrying a club has already appeared.
      If we stay any longer, we will be getting a beating.
      If you go to the houses of the military officials
      everywhere you see the last tigers of Sumatra,
      stuffed, or sitting alive, becoming slowly extinct.
      Late at night in a Surabaya hotel, I'm introduced to
      one of the men Willie believes is threatening to kill
      him. This is Sinhgky Soewadji, a notorious animal
      trader with links to the dealers in Bali. Through an
      intermediary, he's agreed to an interview. He makes no
      apology for trading in wild animals. My business is
      entertainment ... but my hobby is animals. And you've
      had animals before? Yes, I had 16 tigers, elephants,
      lions ... 40 crocodiles, 30 orangutans ... And what
      happens to those animals, were they in the zoos? No,
      in my house, my land. Willie Smits claims to have
      traced the threatening messages he receives back to
      phones used by an employee of Singky Soewadji. Willie
      and Profauna receive many threats. Do you have
      anything to do with those threats, and if they don't
      come from you, who do they come from? (Bahasa) It's
      like this ... with the sort of work Smits and Rosek
      do, threats are common. Singky Soewadji is also
      non-committal about who forged the letters from
      Greenpeace to discredit Willie. I've heard about that
      ... yeah, I've heard about that. In Indonesia, you can
      forge anything ... Right? Willie takes the threat of
      death seriously enough to have made preparations. At
      home with his wife in North Sulawesi, he shows me the
      burial site they have picked out. She's saying, why
      don't we put up the roof now, so it will look
      nicer…this is our grave. Yeah, you don't know, it
      could happen any time. How do you feel, knowing that
      you have your grave ready, it doesn't worry you? I'm
      happy, because I know where it is ... don't you think
      so? I've never thought about it, to be honest. And
      then you can prepare, you can make it nicer, yeah? But
      not yet. Indonesia, Willie is a professor at the local
      university in Sulawesi, and today he's presiding over
      this graduation ceremony. One of the criticisms Willie
      finds most hurtful is that he's a meddling foreigner.
      In fact, he's made a long-term commitment to Indonesia
      by surrendering his Dutch passport, and becoming an
      Indonesian national. At least the people know I won't
      be running away and giving up ... I'm here to stay as
      long as I can, to do whatever I can. What sort of
      price do you think you have paid for the work you are
      doing? A lot of hatred, and a lot of enemies ... it's
      so much easier to run away from problems Has it been
      worth it? I wouldn't be sitting here if it wasn't
      worth it.

      Michelle Desilets
      BOS UK
      "Primates Helping Primates"

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