Indonesia: Sumatran Tiger, on the Brink of Extinction, to Get New Conservation Zone

Ari Susanto Jakarta Globe 13 Dec 13;

Solo. The Forestry Ministry says it plans to build a sanctuary for the critically endangered Sumatran tiger in Riau province in a bid to protect the subspecies from extinction caused by deforestation and poaching.

Novianto Bambang, the ministry’s director for biodiversity conservation, said on Wednesday that the sanctuary would be designed in a semi-natural environment similar to a true tiger habitat. He said it would be a new home for illegally captured and trapped tigers.

The design is still being decided by experts from Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University (UGM) and will be ready next year.

“There are now only around 300 individual tigers left in their natural habitat, mostly scattered in the forests of Jambi and Riau. It is a very critical situation that requires a quick response,” Novianto said.

Satyawan Pudyatmoko, the dean og UGM’s School of Forestry, said that if the subspecies was to survive for another a hundred years, efforts needed to be made to secure land for at least 250 tigers with approximately 100 square kilometers of living space per individual.

The current habitat of the tiger in Sumatra covers a combined 144,000 square kilometers, but only 29 percent of it is protected. The rest is open to logging, clearing for agriculture and other human activity.

“Indonesia is the only country to lose two subspecies of tiger, the Javan and Balinese tigers. If we don’t save the Sumatran tiger immediately, it will follow the others into extinction,” Satyawan said.

The Sumatran tiger population has declined precipitously within the last four decades. Satyawan said the subspecies numbered more than 1,200 individuals in 1970, before rapid deforestation and poaching caused numbers to decline.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, around 100 tigers worldwide are killed per year for their body parts. WWF says 97 percent of wild tigers have been wiped out in just over a century, with only 3,200 left globally.