Indonesians nabbed over sun bear slaughter

PEKANBARU, INDONESIA (AFP) - A group of Indonesians has been arrested after a video emerged of them skinning and cooking four sun bears that they had slaughtered, police said Tuesday (April 3).

The men on the island of Sumatra were charged under Indonesia's environment law and could face five years in prison and 100 million rupiah (S$9,172) in fines, if convicted, authorities said.

The sun bear - listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature - is the smallest of the bear species and lives in South-east Asia's tropical forests and swamps.

But their population is in decline in Indonesia because of rapid deforestation, which has led to habitat loss.

The four bears were caught in traps set by the suspects who later beat or shot them to death, said local police chief Christian Rony.

The men, who range in age from 33 to 51, skinned the bears and cooked their meat.

"They also distributed the meat to other villagers," Rony said, adding that police had seized a gun and airgun pellets from the suspects.

Human-animal conflicts are common across the vast Indonesian archipelago, especially in areas where the clearing of rainforest to make way for palm oil plantations is destroying animals' habitats and bringing them into closer contact with people.

But attacks by the bear are rare in Indonesia.

Last October a sun bear mauled a couple in Sumatra, killing the wife and seriously injuring her husband.

In 2015 a man died when a sun bear mauled him in South Sumatra and in 2009 another lost his fingers and left eye in an assault.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.