Medan, Indonesia – April 5, 2021. WALHI North Sumatra and the Medan Legal Aid Institute (LBH) filed a lawsuit, which is the first of its kind in the world. WALHI North Sumatra is suing PT. Nuansa Alam Nusantara for keeping protected species at its zoo without legal permission, and is holding them accountable for repairing the environmental damage they caused.

On filing the lawsuit, Alinafiah Matondang, legal counsel for LBH Medan stated, “We will sue zoos that are alleged to be illegally keeping protected and endangered species. We will hold companies and zoos accountable for repairing the damage and losses they cause”.

The lawsuit was filed at the Padang Sidempuan District Court (9 / Pdt.G / LH / 2021 / PN Psp) against PT. Nuansa Alam Nusantara in North Padang Lawas Regency. The company had been operating a zoo illegally, without permission from the Natural Resources Conservation Agency. They were displaying some of the rarest and most iconic animals in Indonesia. These include the Sumatran Orangutan, the Komodo Dragon, and many protected bird species such as the Bird of Paradise, Cockatoo and Cassowary. In all, there are at least 43 animals of 18 species, all protected by law and illegally traded from the wild.

Director of WALHI North Sumatra, Doni Latuparisa explained, “In 2019, the police raided the zoo to confiscate and save the animals. The company owner and the people involved must now be held responsible for breaking the law. In addition, they must also be held accountable for repairing of damages and losses caused by the company’s activities, ”he said.

Indonesia’s Law No. 32/2009 states that when someone illegally causes significant environmental damage, the Court can order the responsible party to repair the damage caused. Law 32/1990 has been used against companies that illegally burned agricultural land, and were then ordered to reforest the ecosystems they damaged. This same legal process should apply to serious illegal wildlife traffickers, demanding that they repair the damage they cause to individual animals, as well as to the survival of species and to humans.

Doni Latuparisa said, “The government agency that has the authority must carry out strict supervision and enforcement of the law against the perpetrators of the illegal animal trade. Especially in this case, many of the animals in the zoo are endangered species that must be conserved. Illegally keeping these animals has a negative impact on the species survival and impacts on human. Therefore, we will take this case to court so that the perpetrators are held responsible for the losses they cause.

We are demanding that the perpetrators:

·       Provide financial compensation to enable the care, rehabilitation and release of orangutans rescued from the zoo owned by PT. Nuansa Alam Nusantara.

·       Funded additional patrols and scientific monitoring of the Sumatran Orangutan population in North Sumatra to help their population recover and replace animals taken by zoos.

·       Apologize to the public for the damage caused to society.

·       Provide financial compensation to develop educational exhibits about the illegal wildlife trade and its impact on conservation and human wellbeing.

Alinafiah Matondang added, “Indonesian law should provide protection for the environment. We have prepared well-reasoned cases based on a clear science-based approach for the court’s consideration. This will be an important case for all Indonesian people and the world to show that we are serious about suing animal smugglers to hold them accountable for their actions,” he said.

Sumatran Orangutan, one of the Critically Endangered species photographed at the zoo owned by PT. Nuansa Alam Nusantara before it was confiscated in 2019. Credit: Walhi North Sumatra