Indonesia: Tiger cubs spotted in oil palm plantation

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 23 Mar 16;

The Bengkulu Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and the Tiger Protection and Conservation team from the Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) are monitoring part of a community-based oil palm plantation where three newborn tiger cubs are reported to have been seen.

Mukomuko BKSDA head Rasidin told The Jakarta Post that a number of local people working in the plantation had noticed three tiger cubs in a bush in a remote area around 12 kilometers from the nearest human settlement.

“A number of people have said they have seen the cubs in recent weeks — the latest [report] was on March 12,” Rasidin said.

“The tiger cubs, the size of a local dog, are not strong enough to run, but the residents didn’t spot their mother,” he added.

He had, he said, gone in person to the location with a team from TKNS, but had not found any tiger cubs, noting that rain might have erased the animals’ tracks.

“We’re sure the three tiger cubs and their mother are still there. We’ve asked local people not to bother them,” said Rasidin.

He added that although the oil palm plantation was in a production forest located approximately 10 km from TNKS, the tiger could possibly raise its cubs there.

“Last year, another tiger gave birth to three cubs in this area and didn’t leave for six months, but it was about 5 km farther [from TKNS]. The location where these three cubs were seen is on a low-lying plain near a village,” he said.

According to Rasidin, Mukomuko, located along the trans-Sumatra highway, has long been plagued by tiger poachers, as the regency is home to swathes of Sumatran tiger habitat.

In addition, Mukomuko TNKS head Nurhamidi said that as the tiger cubs and their mother could possibly be living in the secondary forest near the plantation, he and his team would closely monitor the area in order to prevent human-animal conflict from arising.

“We’ll keep a close eye on the area for some time, ” he said.

Although information on the trade in tiger cubs remains unclear, poachers may take advantage of the cubs to lure and capture their mother.

Poachers frequently hunt Sumatran tigers, which are native to the vast and diverse habitats of Sumatra, as their body parts fetch high prices for use in traditional medicines in Asia.

In August last year, the police arrested four men for allegedly killing a Sumatran tiger and trying to sell its body parts.

The species is also struggling with habitat loss amid the expansion of oil palm and acacia plantations, as well as illegal trading, primarily for the domestic market.

Such practices have put the Sumatran tiger under severe threat, prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list the species as critically endangered.

Currently, the population of Sumatran tigers in the wild is predicted to be about 400 across the entirety of the island of Sumatra.

Meanwhile, a pair of male and female tiger cubs born two months ago at the Kinantan Animal and Culture Park (TMBK) in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, have been named Thamrin and Sarinah.

“We decided to name the male cub Thamrin and the female Sarinah because they were born on Jan. 14, 2016, the same day as a terror attack on Jl. MH Thamrin near Sarinah Plaza in Central Jakarta. Everyone agreed to give them those names,” TMBK Bukittinggi head Ikbal told the Post.

He added that the tiger twins were growing healthily and were now able to play with visitors.
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