Tiger Protection and Conservation Units

To conserve Sumatran tigers in Indonesia by means of effective law enforcement and conflict mitigation

 

A century ago, perhaps about 100,000 tigers (Panthera tigris) roamed large parts of Asia, from the Caspian Sea to the East of China and from the Siberian Ussuri region to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali. Today, only about 5,000 tigers survive in scattered populations and the species is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.


In Indonesia, two of the originally three sub-species of island tigers have become extinct: the Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica) in the 1940s and the Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) in the 1980s. Only 400 to 500 individuals of the third sub-species, the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), survive, and giving them a future must be a top priority not only of the people and government of Indonesia but also of the global conservation community.


Human activities are the principal cause of declining tiger numbers. Hunting was a major cause of mortality in the past, both for trophies and as part of organised pest control measures. Poaching and illegal killing today remains one of the major threats to the survival of the species, particularly with the growing demand for tiger bones in traditional oriental medicine. The poaching and trafficking of the Sumatran tiger and of its body parts, or derivatives thereof, is violating the Convention on International Trade in Endangerd Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a crime that is very secretive and involves organised, professional syndicates with links across Sumatra, to Java and overseas.


Habitat loss has occurred through much of the tiger's range and threatens its survival because tiger populations become isolated in remaining fragments of suitable habitats and ultimately die out. In Sumatra, agribusiness, such as oil palm plantations and logging concessions, dominates and generally causes a lot of environmental damage. Due to their size and economic value, such areas have a major role in conservation. Some species can survive in such areas, meaning they can play an important role as corridors or even habitats in their own rights. However, which species can survive there, how they survive and what can be done to maximise their survival is poorly understood.


Also the tiger's natural prey species have declined in numbers due to over-hunting, leading individuals to turn to domestic livestock, which inevitably causes conflict with local farmers.


To address the various problems, 21st Century Tiger has been established as a unique wild tiger conservation partnership between the Zoological Society of London and Global Tiger Patrol, a UK-based conservation agency prioritising protection of the tiger in the field. 21st Century Tiger works in close partnership with Indonesian counterparts in order to develop the capacity within the country to sustain conservation work through the generations. Zoos wishing to support tiger conservation in Sumatra, or elsewhere, can of course liase with a range of agencies working on the ground and/or involved in supplying funds.

 

The purpose of this project is to ensure protection and conservation of the Sumatran tiger in one of the world's most important tiger reserves. This will be achieved through effective implementation of conservation law to 1) reduce poaching and trafficking of tigers, 2) protect tiger prey species and habitat and 3) mitigate human-tiger conflict for the protection of both Sumatran tigers and the forest-edge communities with which they must co-exist.


The first two Tiger Protection and Conservation Units (TPCU) at the Kerinci-Seblat National Park were established in 2000 to combat poaching and trafficking in Sumatran tigers and prey species, and illegal logging and forest clearance in Sumatra's largest national park. Since 2005, five TPCU have been active in national park and park buffer zone forests, mainly focused on Bengkulu and Jambi provinces. A sixth TPCU is in the process of being established. The operational management is carried out by young and highly motivated national park managers who receive input on strategic issues from Fauna & Flora International team members, while the head of the national park takes legal responsibility for the interventions made. Each TPCU team is composed of three rangers drawn from forest-edge communities and is led by a national park ranger. This structure produces an effective mixture of practical skills. The programme has initiated or taken part in law enforcement operations resulting in the seizure of pelts and bones of a number of Sumatran tigers and prosecutions, successful or on-going, against several individuals, some placed on the Indonesian national police wanted list. The programme maintains links with a number of other tiger and other species protection programmes operating in Sumatra and elsewhere in South-East Asia to share information on threat and trend. As direct threat to Sumatran tigers was successfully reduced, the programme increased its support to further activities: these include, for example, community tiger awareness activities using local beliefs, an initiative to reduce accidental snaring of animals by forest-edge farmers in wild pig snares, and a planning community patrol scheme to conserve buffer-zone forests bordering a key tiger habitat.


WAZA Conservation Project 05038 is implemented by Fauna & Flora International, in cooperation with the Indonesian authorities and with funding provided through 21st Century Tiger. The project was one of three in Sumatra supported by the EAZA Tiger Campaign of 2002-04 and the ARAZPA Tiger Campaign of 2003-04. Following closure of the campaigns, many individual zoos continue to support this project through 21st Century Tiger. The project remains a focus of the ARAZPA Conservation Fund and is also individually supported by a number of zoos, the Save the Tiger Fund and the Rhinoceros & Tiger Fund of the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Zoos Australia has provided veterinary equipment and, with the Zoological Society of London, International Zoo Veterinary Group and Taman Safari Indonesia, veterinary training for rangers to respond to wildlife emergencies. IUCN Netherlands provided support in 2005-06 for a programme to win community support for important tiger habitat outside the national park borders in Merangin district of Jambi, which is implemented by the local NGO Walhi Jambi. The Bosak & Kruger Foundation supports a tiger awareness programme in Kerinci and surrounding districts implemented by the local NGO Lembaga Tumbuh Alami, and a pilot initiative to reduce the number of protected species, in particular carnivores, accidentally caught in wild pig snares placed in farmland close to the national park. The programme continues to be in need of financial support.

 

Visit www.21stcenturytiger.org.

 

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