Official Defends Police in Killing of Endangered Javan Leopard

Jakarta. If forced to choose between a human life and that of an endangered animal, a senior forestry official says humans win out every time.

Darori, the Ministry of Forestry’s director general of forest protection and nature conservation, was commenting on the killing last Saturday of a rare Javan leopard by police officers in Sukabumi, West Java.

Local police, who said the animal was killed after it entered a classroom, have been criticized for not exercising restraint and seeking the help of forestry officials to trap the leopard.

Darori, however, defended the police, saying officers were right to shoot the animal because it was endangering people’s lives.

“We will investigate the incident, but if an animal enters a village and has the potential to hurt humans, you are allowed to kill it, even if it is an endangered species,” he said.

Darori said the actions of the officers were justified under the regulations dealing with wild animals.

“The priority is to save humans if it appears likely that an animal is going to attack,” he said.

He cited an experience he had while working in Sumatra in 1983, when a trapped tiger was brought into a village, escaped and caused panic.

“We eventually had to get the [police’s] Mobile Brigade to shoot it because the situation was very dangerous,” he said.

“That’s why we need to look more closely at this case to find out what made the leopard stray into the village in the first place before jumping to any conclusions.”

The Javan leopard, which is found only in Java, is included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species.

The number of mature Javan leopards is “certainly less than 250,” the conservation organization said on its Web site.

Darori, however, was quick to add that there were no excuses for illegal hunting or the deliberate killing of endangered species.

“It’s different with illegal hunting when you go out intending to kill tigers to sell their body parts,” he said.

Conflict between humans and animals is a growing problem in Indonesia, which has some of the world’s largest remaining tropical forests, as human settlements encroach further into natural habitats.

Noviar Andayani, country director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said there were still no strict standards in Indonesia for dealing with conflicts between humans and animals.

“Using our experience working with villagers in conflict areas in Sumatra, we have been setting up simple mitigation procedures,” Noviar said, adding that the noise of traditional kentongans, or wood drums, usually sent tigers back into the forest.

“But I have never heard of any regulation that allows humans to kill animals even if they wander into a village,” she said.

“They are protected animals, so we are supposed to protect them, maybe get help from the conservation agency on the site or get a vet to tranquilize them.”

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