"In the Spotlight"

Shoot ’em all!

In the spotlight, 10 August 2017

by Yvonne Kunz


Burning Forest

photo: Nordin

Indonesia is a country known to be quite rigorous when it comes to particular contraventions. Drug trafficking for example can be sanctioned with the death penalty legitimized by law. A new dimension has been reached with President Joko Widodo’s (Jokowi) encouragement to shoot drug traffickers on the spot see also Watch Indonesia!, Information und Analyse, 08 August 2017. Extra-judicial killings to tackle environmental issues again, seem to be a new strategy with a new quality . Whether or not this sanction proofs to be result-oriented is yet to be seen. Doubts arise for several reasons.

An Indonesian military officer orders forest burners to be shot. This seems to come as a response to a currently increasing number of hotspot areas under risk of forest fires as well as to the raging forest fires in 2015, which burned an area of 17,000 km². This area equals the square footage of Saxony. More than 43 million people were breathing in toxic fumes over months, leading to an estimated number of 500,000 respiratory infections on the island of Sumatra, and Indonesian Borneo. According to the World Bank, the fires are reported to cost Indonesia at least IDR 221 trillion (USD 16.1 billion), equivalent to 1.9 percent of 2015 GDP and more than twice the reconstruction cost after the Aceh tsunami 1. And, most of the fires have been identified in close vicinity to huge oil palm concessions. It might tell that the problem is not mainly caused by smallholders but largely by huge palm oil companies. This does not mean that smallholders are innocent in this massive environmental disaster. Smallholders seem to be the smaller problem though. And, they are increasingly struggling for access to land to sustain a living as huge companies are pushing them towards the edges of the forests, the so called frontiers. If then, a smallholder burns a piece of forest to establish a new plantation on forested areas, or else has been assigned by a company to set a fire or only meant to burn rubbish and the fire went out of control, an extra-judicial killing can obviously not be the solution.

Even though monkeys do not enjoy human rights, the order to just shoot whatever seems inconvenient, follows the same logic here. In the villages in Karanggede, Central Java, monkeys are disturbing, attacking and harassing people. 100 shooters from the army and the police as well as members of the Association of Indonesian Shooters (Perbakin) have been sent to hunt down the primates. Just shoot them. Or else, critically reflect on why the monkeys are increasingly present in the villages in their search for food. Forests in the area around the Volcano Merapi are increasingly damaged or disappearing which in turn makes it increasingly difficult for animals including macaques to find food.

Killing humans can never be the solution to a problem. Shooting monkeys cannot be a solution either. Both articles below read like a 1st of April hoax. A day when German newspapers are allowed to include a hoax within their articles and readers enjoy the search for it. Considering these shooting as a serious strategy leaves me puzzled. These two short articles provide other solutions and there must be uncountable more. But, just shoot ’em all.

1 The World Bank (2015). Indonesia Economic Quarterly. Reforming amid uncertainty. Retrieved from http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/pubdocs/publicdoc/2015/12/844171450085661051/IEQ-DEC-2015-ENG.pdf



Reuters UK, 05 August 2017


Indonesian military officer orders that forest burners be shot


JAKARTA (Reuters) – A military official in the Indonesian province of Jambi said on Saturday he has ordered that anyone who deliberately sets fire to forest areas be shot, as authorities struggle to contain fires that cause choking smoke in the region.

Five Indonesian provinces have declared emergencies because of forest fires, according to Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB), with the number of hotspots steadily increasing in many areas over the past week.

The BNPB is working with many government branches, including the military, to contain the fires. Indonesian media have reported that authorities in the neighbouring province of South Sumatra, also on the island of Sumatra, had issued the same order.

“This is to stress a point to the people, who have been warned many, many times,” said Colonel Refrizal, commander of the forest fire task force in Jambi. “(This is) to show our firmness and seriousness.”

The order would be carried out “responsibly”, said Refrizal, who goes by one name.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Twitter the Jambi task force was working to extinguish a fire covering an area of 10 hectares (25 acres).

Nugroho also said authorities had found one area in Jambi that had been “intentionally” burned by its owner.

The number of hotspots had increased to 239 by July 30, from 173 hotspots three days earlier, according to the BNPB. The hotspots were seen mostly on Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo island, with some also on Sumatra and Java island.

The agency had previously warned that the threat of forest fires would escalate, with the dry season expected to peak in September.

Indonesia is regularly hit by forest fires, which can result in choking smoke blowing across to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia.

The sprawling Southeast Asian archipelago suffered some of its worst forest fires in 2015, hitting Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The World Bank, citing government data, said 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of land in Indonesia burned between June and October 2015, causing $16 billion of estimated economic damage.

Draining and conversion of peatland, often driven by palm oil plantations, contributed to the intensity of haze from the fires, the World Bank said.



The Straits Times, 04 August , 2017


Indonesia military, police declare war on monkeys


BOYOLALI (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Over the next week, some areas in Boyolali regency, Central Java, may resemble war zones, as hundreds of police and military personnel armed with rifles are deployed with orders to shoot on sight.

The targets, however, will not be desperate drug dealers or merciless terrorists, but monkeys.

Residents and the authorities seem to have lost patience in the face of repeated raids by wild macaques on farms and houses in the past few months.

Havoc has been wreaked on corn and fruit and vegetable crops. Houses have been looted and people attacked.

More than 100 shooters from the army and the police, as well as members of the Association of Indonesian Shooters (Perbakin) have been sent to hunt down the primates.

“This operation is not intended to kill, let alone exterminate the monkeys, but we do aim to secure people’s farms and residences,” Karanggede Police chief Adjunct Commissioner Margono said, adding that they would use non-lethal rounds to shoot the animals.

The shooters were deployed on Thursday (Aug 3) and are to work there for a week. Their operation will cover at least five villages in Sendang subdistrict, Karanggede.

“Today we combed locations frequently visited by the monkeys. We really hope this operation will be successful, because the money attacks have terrorised the people,” Mr Margono said.

Locals tried to get rid of the monkeys by using wooden and bamboo sticks, but the animals kept coming back. They also tried to fence their fields with nets, only to find out that the monkeys damaged the nets.

The monkeys have lost their fear of humans, said Mr Purwanto, from Karanggede.

“The more we try to get rid of them, the more aggressive the monkeys become. They leave but come back minutes later in much bigger numbers,” he said.

At least 13 people, mostly children and senior citizens, have fallen victim to monkey attacks.

“The latest victim was Parmo, 82, who was attacked on Tuesday and sustained severe injuries,” said Sendang subdistrict head Sukimin.

Mr Sukimin said Mr Parmo was using a stick to try to beat off a troop of monkeys that was approaching his chicken cage but the animals ran amok and fought back furiously. The grandfather received 42 stitches on his arms and chest.

Animal activist Ning Hening criticised the shooting operation and said it would not address the problem.

“A similar approach has been adopted in other regions, but the monkeys keep coming back when they are hungry,” Ms Hening said.

Ms Hening suggested the use of wet chicken manure, put along the monkeys’ usual routes, as a better way to get rid of monkeys without injuring them.

“Monkeys do not like the smell of chicken manure. They will leave once they smell it. Farmers have applied this approach for ages,” Ms Hening said.

Another way is by painting one of the monkeys entirely red and releasing it back to its habitat.

“Other monkeys will run terrified once they see the red-painted monkey, thinking that it does not belong to their troop.” Ms Hening said.

“Such traditional ways are more humane than shooting them.”

Residents say monkey attacks recur every dry season but this time the monkeys seem to be more aggressive. They blame the situation on damage to the forests on the slopes of Mount Merapi that are the natural habitat of the primates.

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