The market price of turtles varies depending on their unique features, including their rarity in the wild or their status as a protected species.
At the Flora and Fauna 2006 exhibition at Lapangan Banteng, Central Jakarta, in August, a sulcata tortoise species aged 15 was offered at Rp 20 million and a 15-centimeter cherry head cost Rp 1.8 million. The cheapest were green turtles from Brazil, on sale at Rp 20,000 each, cage included.
Sadly, a large number of the reptiles traded are protected by law, such as Papuan pig-nose turtles (Carettaochelys insculpta) and long-neck turtles, which range in price from Rp 75,000 to Rp 200,000, as well as green tree pythons (Morelia viridis), offered at over Rp 1 million, according to length.
Sutarno, a reptile trader in Jakarta, admitted that protected animals -- local and imported -- were sold quite openly. "I just sell what collectors don't want any more, and buy from suppliers outside Jakarta," he said.
Keepers of protected species are required to hold a certificate issued by the Natural Resources Conservation Center, Ministry of Forestry.
"Generally, buyers don't ask about the origins and official papers for such animals," he added.
According to Mahda Putra, most collectors of rare reptiles do not have official documentation because government monitoring of wild animal keepers and traders is not that tight.
He acknowledged the pride among those who raise and collect such rare species. "In fact, the breeding, trading and hunting of protected animals are prohibited," he pointed out.
A variety of reptiles are available at animal markets and pet shops, like the decorative fish market on Jl. Kartini and Jl. Sumenep, Central Jakarta, and dozens of animal dealers along Jl. Barito, South Jakarta.
Reptile sellers can also be found in the Hanggar Teras Pancoran aquarium fish center and the Jatinegara bird market, East Jakarta.
The illegal reptile trade and the emergence of reptile lovers' clubs have triggered high demand for these animals taken from their habitat, which adversely affects their future conservation.
Meanwhile, the captive breeding of species threatened by extinction has not yet brought significant results. On the other hand, enforcement of legislation against illegal dealers, keepers and suppliers of rare animals remains very limited.
No wonder (as revealed by the Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation, Ministry of Forestry) Indonesia has the longest list of wildlife species nearing extinction, including 126 birds, 63 mammals and 21 reptiles.
This is mainly due to the loss of their natural habitat following forest fires, illegal logging and hunting for trade.