Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Does the Sumatran tiger live under reduced threat?

The Jakarta Post, Bandarlampung

Thanks to conservation efforts and antipoaching patrols, the rate of tiger killings in Lampung and Jambi on Sumatra island has declined over the past three years.

The island is the only place where the Sumatran tiger (Phantera tigris sumatrae) lives in the wild. It is endangered because of poaching and habitat destruction.

The head of Lampung's Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Tamen Sitorus, said the number of incidental tiger killings last year was significantly lower than in previous years. The park recorded 13 cases of tiger killings in 2003, nine in 2004 and one in 2005.

"Tiger poaching in Bukit Barisan Selatan was rife before 2002, which was quite alarming," Tamen said.

He said forest rangers and environmental groups had worked hard to reduce the number of tiger killings in and around the park.

Poaching points were identified and those areas routinely patrolled.

"Forest rangers, together with the Rhino Protection Unit (RPU), conduct routine patrols and destroy snares laid by poachers," he said.

Poachers in the park employ a number of methods, including the use of neck snares, poisoning and shooting.

Despite the decreased rate of poaching, Tamen said, the practice had not stopped altogether.

He said it was important to exercise caution because the Sumatran tiger was still listed as critically endangered and a disturbingly large market for tiger organs and skins continued to exist.

Lampung is known as a source for the trade of endangered species on Java, Bali and South Sumatra.

Antipoaching teams in Way Kambas National Park have uncovered many traps laid by residents to ensnare animals, particularly tigers.

It is likely the tiger population in Way Kambas is smaller than in Bukit Barisan because illegal logging has destroyed much of their habitat.

Way Kambas rangers located many snares in and around forested areas bordering on community farms, between Plang Ijo and the Way Kambas elephant training center, during an operation in January this year. Twenty wire snares were found recently on August 12, and six on August 14, during forest patrols.

The head of the Plang Ijo forest rangers unit, Putu, said the snares used these days were simpler but difficult to detect. Previously, wires were attached to trees, but now they are fastened to one-meter posts driven into the ground.

In this way, a trapped animal will not die but its movement will be restricted to a radius of 50 to 100 meters as the beam catches between the trees.

The current world Sumatran tiger population is believed to be between 400 and 500.

In August, two of Jambi's forests, the 19,653-square-kilometer Kerinci Seblat National Park and the 5,417-sq km Bukit Tigapuluh were declared Sumatran tiger conservation habitats and categorized as tiger conservation landscapes (TLCs).

According to the website of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) in Indonesia, the two areas were designated as TLCs in joint research conducted by the WWF, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park and the Save the Tiger Fund (STF) in a report entitled "Setting Priorities for the Conservation and Recovery of the World's Tigers 2005-2015".

The report, which was launched in Washington D.C. on July 20, succeeded in analyzing and setting a priority list of tiger habitats around the world.

It is hoped the two areas can provide long-term protection for tigers, through sustaining breeding groups and food sources.

The areas encompass tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests and tropical and subtropical coniferous forests, which are relatively less prone to threats.

The WWF Indonesia said tiger habitats had shrunk by 40 percent compared to 10 years ago.

As many as 76 TCLs have been identified as effective in providing long-term protection for tigers, half of which can still sustain 100 or more tigers. fileid=20060920.G07&irec=6

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