Indonesia: Little Cause for Celebration on Tiger Day

Jakarta Globe 3 Aug 13;

Wildlife conservation activists in Indonesia marked a somber Global Tiger Day earlier this week with dire warnings about the relentless destruction of the last remaining forests that are home to the critically endangered Sumatran tiger and the growing online trade in tiger parts.

In a press release to mark Global Tiger Day, which fell on Monday, the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Indonesian office said that a combination of external factors was driving the apex predator to the inevitable brink of extinction.

Among these is the worst rate of habitat destruction experienced by any of the six extant tiger species worldwide.

“Every year the island of Sumatra loses more than 500,000 hectares of forest to make way for agricultural land,” WWF said, noting that this represented a loss of nearly 6 percent a year.

The organization said the massive forest fires that raged throughout much of Riau province in June and made international headlines for the record-breaking haze they caused in Singapore and Malaysia had also destroyed vast swaths of tiger habitat.

“Forty-two percent of the fire hot spots in Riau were inside primary forests that are tiger habitats,” it said.

Besides the loss of habitat, another major threat to the continued survival of the species is poaching, with various parts of the animal in high demand in East Asia for use in traditional medicine.

WWF Indonesia cited 2008 data from the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as saying that of the estimated 51 Sumatran tigers killed each year, three-quarters were victims of the illegal wildlife trade.

Anwar Purwoto, WWF Indonesia’s program director for forest and freshwater species, said Indonesia was obliged under its commitment as a tiger range country to double the number of Sumatran tigers in the wild by 2022 from 2010 levels, but warned that it was not acting fast enough.

There are an estimated 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.

“Time is ticking away. We’re already a quarter of the way toward the deadline. The government must speed up the implementation of its strategy to save the Sumatran tiger population so that it can meet the target,” Anwar said.

WWF Indonesia said it was working closely with the government and private organizations to manage key tiger habitats, including through patrols, setting up guard posts and camera traps, and establishing field stations for research, conservation and education purposes.

Sunarto, WWF Indonesia’s elephant and tiger conservation coordinator, said there were not enough forest rangers patrolling the tiger habitats against poachers and the illegal loggers destroying their habitats.

He added that WWF Indonesia had consistently urged the Forestry Ministry to get people living in or near the forests involved in sustainable forest management, which would both empower local communities and help protect tiger habitats and populations.

While the threat posed by poachers is not a new phenomenon, activists have sounded the alarm on a relatively recent medium that has boosted demand for tiger parts: online trading.

Iding Haidir, secretary of the Harimau Kita (Our Tigers) forum in Jambi, said buyers from all over the world now had access to Sumatran tiger parts as a result of the flourishing online trade.

“Often the parts are disguised as antique objects or parts from species that aren’t endangered,” he said as quoted by, adding that many popular Indonesian e-commerce websites were known to tolerate or overlook users buying and selling protected wildlife.

Iding said that in 2011 and 2012, wildlife authorities seized from online traders tiger pelts, claws, teeth, whiskers and even whole stuffed animals believed to have come from at least 22 poached tigers.

He said the advent of e-commerce had allowed transnational syndicates to spring up, collecting tiger parts from poachers all over Sumatra and selling them to buyers in Indonesia and abroad.

“There needs to be more seriousness and cooperation between countries [to address the problem], because the illegal wildlife trade is no longer just between towns or provinces. It’s international,” Iding said.

He added that Harimau Kita was working with the popular online forum Kaskus and e-commerce site to crack down on users trading in tiger parts.

Siska Handayani, the North Sumatra and Aceh coordinator of the organization Tiger Heart, agreed that the Internet had allowed the illegal wildlife trade to reach unprecedented levels.

“The seller and buyer can carry out a transaction in an instant and the goods are sent by courier, without either of them ever meeting in person,” she said in Medan as quoted by

“Almost every part of the tiger’s body is a sought-after item on the black market, which is why the number being poached continues to increase.”

Agus S.B. Sutito, the head of the Forestry Ministry’s sub-directorate of species conservation, acknowledged that the Sumatran tiger faced threats to its survival on several fronts.

He said the ministry had estimated the financial cost to the country from the illegal trade in all wild animal species at Rp 9 trillion ($875 million) a year.

Prowling Tiger Puts Villagers on High Alert Amid Increasing Attacks in Sumatra
Jakarta Globe 3 Aug 13;

Villagers in Seluma district, Bengkulu province, have called on forest rangers to take urgent measures to protect them from a tiger that has reportedly been prowling the area since last Sunday.

Anwar T., a community leader in the village of Puguk, said as quoted by that residents had been living in fear since the animal was first spotted.

He said that after the sighting, in which the tiger remained in the area for eight hours before disappearing into the forest again, eight families living on the periphery of the village had fled their homes for safer areas.

“We held a discussion with all the villagers and we agreed that those living in that particular area should leave in order to avoid having anyone fall victim [to the tiger],” Anwar said.

“The tiger has been prowling around people’s homes and making everyone scared. No one dares go outside their house now,” he added.

Anwar said the villagers had immediately notified the police and the Bengkulu Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) after the first sighting, but there had been no satisfactory response from either side.

“No officials have gone down to the location in question, and meanwhile everyone’s getting more and more anxious,” he said.

He claimed that the police appeared reluctant to go to the location because it was also the site of known illegal logging activities that they had long chosen to overlook.

Jaja Mulyana, a BKSDA official, said his office had already sent three rangers to survey the location but had found no indication that the lone tiger posed an immediate threat to the villagers.

“The information that we received from the team that we sent was that there are indeed tiger tracks in that area, but otherwise the situation appears to be safe,” he said.

The official said the rangers had concluded that the tiger was probably only passing through in search of food, but promised that the BKSDA would continue monitoring the case.

Reports of tigers encroaching into human habitations and attacking people are increasing throughout Sumatra as large swaths of their natural forest habitats are cleared to make way for palm oil and pulp and paper concessions.

In North Sumatra’s Mandailing Natal district, tigers prowling near a village have killed two people and injured one since March. Villagers reported that at least two of the critically endangered animals were lurking in the area.

Last month, a group of four tigers in Aceh’s Gunung Leuser National Park killed and ate a villager and chased his five friends up a tree where they remained for three days while waiting for help.

Police said the attack occurred after the men caught and killed a tiger cub in a snare. Nearby tigers drawn to the scene of the injured cub pounced on the men, killing one of them.

Sumatran tigers are one of the smallest and most endangered of the six extant tiger species in the world, and are believed to number around 400 in the wild. The Gunung Leuser ecosystem is believed to be one of their last major strongholds, with a population of around 100 tigers.