A camera trap footage that captured sightings of a female Sumatran tiger mating and roaming with her four cubs in a remote forest in Riau province highlighted the need to conserve forests so that rare and endangered species such as tigers can live and breed naturally.
The footage was released on Sunday by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Riau Natural Resources and Conservation Agency, or BKSDA, in commemoration of International Tiger Day held annually on July 29 to raise awareness on tiger conservation as the big cat is pushed to the brink of extinction.
“Based on our observation of visuals captured in the camera trap, there are adult male and female tigers, including the female with the four cubs, that make the forest their homes,” said Suharyono, head of Riau BKSDA.
Suharyono, who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name, said it was also evident from the footage that the cubs had grown to sub adults, aged less than a year old.
“We identified from her stripe pattern that it was the same female tiger sighted several times with the four cubs,” Sunarto, a wildlife ecologist with the WWF Indonesia in Riau, said.
The footage comes after police in South Aceh district last week arrested two men for allegedly trying to sell tiger skin.
According to the 1990 Natural Conservation Law, killing a protected species such as a Sumatran tiger is punishable by up to five years in prison and maximum fines of 100 million rupiah ($7,000).
The Sumatran tiger is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is the only tiger subspecies left in Indonesia after the Javan and Balinese tiger subspecies went extinct in the 1920s and 1940s.
Watch the clip and read the full story in Arab News
Jakarta city administration’s recent raid on 80 high-rise buildings along the Indonesian capital’s main business thoroughfare, which showed that 37 buildings are not equipped with infiltration wells and are alleged to have failed to comply with regulations on the use of groundwater, is another confirmation of what experts have warned that the city is well on its way to become an underwater metropolis.
The 2017 World Ocean Review, which was published in November last year in Berlin, reports that Jakarta is currently the fastest sinking city in the world, subsiding at a rate much faster than other coastal metropolis of over 10 million inhabitants in Southeast Asia such as Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh and Manila.
According to the report, Jakarta, which is partly built on peaty soils, is an “extreme example of a sinking city” with many of its high-rise buildings and the commercial center are sinking in the soft subsurface by up to 10 centimeters annually.
The abstraction of groundwater for drinking water supply is also contributing to this effect and it is feared that the sinking will accelerate. Groundwater normally acts as a natural abutment that counterbalances the weight of built-up areas bearing down on the substrate, while another factor that contributes to Jakarta land subsidence is compaction of the ground.
“Without countermeasures and a reduction of groundwater abstraction, by the year 2025 parts of Jakarta are likely to have sunk by a further 180 centimeters,” the World Ocean Review reports.
To come up with resolutions on how coastal metropolis can adapt to the land subsidence and sea level change, scientists at Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) and University of Bremen’s Institute of Sociology in Germany are working on research projects in Jakarta, Singapore and Manila.
Chief sociologist Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge, who is one of the scientists behind the World Ocean Review, said they are seeking to find answers on how policies and standardized practices for living with sea level rise, which are communicated by international donors can be translated into local context and are politically legitimized.
“Our recent findings so far are that the relative sea-level change serves as a floating signifier to justify investment in infrastructure to transform the coastal areas and acculturation to living with water,” Hornidge told a group of international journalists during a visit to the institution in Oct. 2017.
The evil twin of global warming: ocean acidification
But sea level rise, which is rising by around 3 millimeters annually according to the World Ocean Review, is not the only problem faced by people living in coastal areas. Those that are driven by climate change, such as ocean warming and ocean acidification, are adding to the coastal inhabitants’ woes.
Ocean acidification or the rising acid in seawater because the ocean partly absorbs the carbon dioxide that humans pump into the atmosphere, poses another threat to ocean life and marine ecosystem, impairs life in the ocean, and compromises important ecosystem services it provides to humankind, such as fish, which serve as the primary source of protein for a billion people, mainly in developing countries, and the fisheries industry that provides jobs for millions of people, especially those living in coastal areas.
Scientists have coined the terms “the other carbon dioxide problem” or the “evil twin of global warming” for ocean acidification, which has increased by 30 percent since 1850, according to Dr. Ulf Riebesell, a marine biologist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in the northern German seaside town of Kiel.
Riebesell, who led more than 250 scientists from a network of 20 German research institutions to conduct an eight-year research on ocean acidification called Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification (BIOACID), said the changes in seawater acid is happening 10 times faster than it would have been if it was happening due to natural process.
Findings of the research, which was conducted from 2009 to 2017, were presented at last year’s United Nations climate change conference COP23 in Bonn. Some of the findings show that many organism are able to withstand ocean acidification but may lose the ability if also exposed to other stressors such as warming, loss of oxygen or pollution. Ocean acidification and warming reduce the survival rates of some fish species’ early life stages, which will likely reduce fish stocks and yields. Climate change also alters the availability of prey for fish and as a consequence may affect their growth and reproduction.
Scientists involved in BIOACID research found that ocean acidification reduces the ocean’s ability to store carbon and will change the distribution and abundance of fish species. The change will have a significant impact on economic activities such as small-scale coastal fisheries and tourism. This calls for therefore, the scientists said it is crucial to consider ocean acidification and warming in fish stocks and marine areas management.
Hans-Otto Portner, co-coordinator of BIOACID and marine ecophysiologist at Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research said for scientists to be able to project the steady level of ocean acidification based on historical events would depend on political decisions.
“The oceans are warming, just like the rest of the planet. They are losing oxygen and acidifying. The overarching trend is marine life now is being depleted,” he added.
Riebesell said the global community needs to understand the many ways in which humans depend on the ocean and its services and it will be for humans’ own benefit if carbon dioxide emissions are reduced that it could limit global warming to less than 2 degree Celsius.
“The future of this planet depends on us. Wouldn’t it be a great achievement if the age of human dominance on earth goes down in history as an era of rethinking and changing behavior?” Riebesell added.
Portner said all countries need to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions drastically by the middle of the century if they want to meet the Paris climate targets.
“The current world climate report indicates that net-zero emissions are a precondition for limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. However, reducing carbon dioxide emissions alone may not be sufficient,” Portner said.
Coral reef restoration
Keeping global warming further down to below 1.2 degrees Celsius with limited concentrations of carbon dioxide emissions could help to preserve about half of the tropical coral reefs, the BIOACID research found, adding more attestation on how ocean acidification will impact humans.
“Coral reefs provide habitat for millions of species, coastal protection, revenues from tourism and biodiversity heritage for the future,” Riebesell said.
According to Marine Policy journal published in August 2017, coral reefs around the world is one of the most notable examples of nature-based tourism spurred by a single ecosystem, which attract tourists and generate revenues in 100 countries and territories, including Indonesia.
Coral reef tourism is estimated to generate roughly US$35.8 billion dollars globally every year or over 9 percent of all coastal tourism value in coral reef countries around the world. Indonesia ranked second among the 10 jurisdictions in the world that have the highest total reef tourism value, amounted to US$3,098 million annually, while neighboring Thailand and the Philippines ranked fourth and seventh, generating US$2,410 million and US$1,385 million per year respectively.
Dr. Sonia Bejarano, head of the reef systems workgroup at Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) in Bremen, said coral reefs are biodiversity treasure in need of science for sustainability.
Bejarano and a group of scientists at ZMT has been conducting research projects on coral reefs in various parts of the world, including in Indonesia, where they found that a receding destructive fishing practice in an Indonesian marine park has led to a rise in herbivorous fish.
“There is a high social and economic dependence on coral reefs,” Bejarano said, adding that their research is directly applicable in coral reef restoration.
The northern coastline on Indonesia’s main island of Java is sinking annually at a fast rate, causing land subsidence and threatening residents of communities living near the shore.
Experts say economic developments and land conversion from mangrove forests to industrial or residential uses are among the factors causing the sea level to rise and water to creep farther inland.
But in Jakarta, the nation’s capital, groundwater extraction remains the main culprit behind land subsidence, as up to 65 percent of its residents rely on underground water sources. Land subsiding is anywhere from 3 to 18 cm annually in various parts of the city and a lack of mitigation would lead to 30 percent subsidence in 2050, Abdul Malik Sadat Idris, an official from the National Development Planning Agency, warned in February.
“Land subsidence is obvious along the northern coastline of Java at a rate of 1 to 25 cm annually,” said Dr Heri Andreas, a geodesist from Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in West Java. “This trend is a warning for us that land subsidence will continue to happen unless we do something to stop or withhold it, since land subsidence is like a silent killer that will affect our communities as it causes inundation and land to erode.”
Indonesia’s 54,700 kilometer coast line is the second-longest in the world after Canada, and its mangrove ecosystem is the largest in the world, covering 3,489,141 hectare or 23 percent of the world’s mangrove ecosystem, according to data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
These mangrove forests are part of an estimated 30 million-hectare coastal area ecosystem along with peatlands, wetlands, lagoons, river deltas, sea bank, marshes and evaporation ponds, many of which are located close to human settlements that are less than 30 meters above sea level.
They support to a wealth of life as a natural habitat for various species, and also serve as a buffer to seawater intrusion. At the same time, they store fresh water and contain high carbon reserve that help mitigate climate change. A mangrove forest that extends at least 100 meter inland could suppress rising tide by 13 percent to 66 percent.
“But most of our wetlands and 52 percent of our mangrove forests have been destroyed. We have lost 85 percent of the mangrove areas on the northern coast of Java as they have been converted to human settlements or man-made fish ponds. In some areas, the sea level has even risen,” said Agung Kuswandono, a deputy minister in charge of natural resources coordination at the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs.
Nyoman Suryadiputra, director of Wetlands International Indonesia said the only course of action now is an immediate halt to wetlands conversion.
“Many of us don’t realize the fact that Indonesia’s largest fresh water reserves are in peatlands instead of lakes or rivers,” he said, adding that at the same time, climate change also causes sea level to rise and these two situations are increasing the risk of further calamities along the coastline.
Jakarta is not the only city in the region suffering from land subsidence. Other Asian mega cities such as Tianjin, Shanghai, Tokyo, Osaka, Manila, Bangkok, Dhaka, and Bombay also have some areas that have slipped below sea level, said Dr Athanasios Vafeidis from Department of Geography, Coastal Risks and Sea-Level Rise of Kiel University in Germany.
According to Vafeidis, calamity could be prevented if people are willing to adapt to the sea level rise and prepare for it by looking at data and historical facts. Planning based on such knowledge is less costly compared to the damage that could result from ignoring the facts, or having to take action after the fact.
“Adaptation costs are generally lower than direct damage costs. If we include indirect impacts, benefits are even larger,” Vafeidis told a group of visiting international journalists to the institution in late 2017 organized by
“The costs depend on the timing of adaptation but proactive adaptation pays,” he said.
Dr Vafeidis added that the rise in sea level has been accelerating for the past decade and will continue to do so. The rates the same but some regions could see acceleration three times faster than others. Without adaptation, he said, many areas will become unviable by 2100.
“A better understanding of adaptation and decision-making under certainty is essential, especially for vulnerable regions such as deltas and small islands,” he said.
Klaus Schwarzer from Institute of Geosciences, Sedimentology, Coastal and Continental Shelf Research at Kiel University, cited the Mekong in Vietnam, Chao Praya in Thailand and Mahakam in Indonesia’s Kalimantan island as examples of deltas that are vulnerable, based on current estimates of the relative sea level rise to 2050, including land subsidence in the deltas.
If no adaptions are in place, the number of people displaced from the Mekong delta would be extreme at more than one million, while anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 people would have to flee their communities along the Chao Praya and Mahakam.
Schwarzer said more research on coastal zones would be essential to provide knowledge that could be applied in drafting potential future scenarios so that people can continue to make use of the coastal environment. However, such usage must be sustainable with better management of coastal ecosystem resources, given that some 2.8 billion people in the world now live within 100 km of a coast.
Mangrove forests that help to keep the tides at bay continue to be cut down, but very few people are talking about the loss of this essential element of coastal protection, said Martin Zimmer, a professor for mangrove ecology at Bremen’s University of Bremen.
Zimmer said researchers are developing an approach mangrove spatial conservation that focuses on humans needs while also maintaining biodiversity.
“It is an ecosystem design that focuses on what people in the area need. We implement an ecosystem that functions for them, not just to make the areas look beautiful. To protect coastal areas, we can’t just build dykes or other structures, but we do that with something that is naturally there, which is mangrove,” Zimmer said.
Coastal zones serve as an essential lifeline for much of the world’s population, Schwarzer said, given 95 percent of international trade involves marine transport, which ends up in harbors.
Oceans are also important sources of food with 90 percent of the world’s fishery activity is carried out in coastal zones.
“There is an increase in extreme storm surges and predictions of sea level rise. Coastal erosion already endangers about one-third of the world’s population,” Schwarzer said.
Indonesian authorities have launched a massive cleanup operation off the coast of Balikpapan, the provincial capital of East Kalimantan, where an oil slick from a ruptured undersea pipeline has sprawled to 20,000 hectares, contaminating mangrove forest and marine life.
Satellite images from state space agency LAPAN showed in just two days since the initial oil slick was detected on Mar. 31, the spill has sprawled to 13,559 hectare on Apr. 2 from 12,987 hectare on the previous day.
According to the Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Ministry, by Apr. 5 the spill has sprawled to 20,000 hectares, Kompas newspaper reported.
“Now it would take months to recover from the environmental damage,” Arifsyah Nasution, a marine campaigner from Greenpeace Indonesia said.
Environmental activists in Balikpapan have team up to collect evidence and assess the environmental damage, which Nasution said the public can later use as a comparison to assessment made by government agencies.
Balikpapan city administration has declared a state of emergency as locals’ livelihoods suffer. The oil spill claimed the lives of five fishermen when it ignited on fire on Mar. 31 and killed at least an Irrawaddy dolphin, a rare and protected species.
State-owned oil company Pertamina, which at first denied the leak was its fault, acknowledged that the spill had come from its undersea pipelines, located 22 to 26 meters below the sea.
“The crude oil leaked from one of the pipelines that was dragged more than 100 meter from its location,” Yudi Nugraha, a spokesman for Pertamina operations in Balikpapan said.
The company said the steel pipelines, which distribute crude oil from the Lawe-Lawe Terminal to its refinery in Balikpapan are 20 years old and that only external forces can dragged them as far as 100 meter.
Greenpeace’s Nasution said the crisis could have been minimized if Pertamina had responded more quickly.
The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry said the likely culprit is a Panama-flagged coal ship that dropped its anchor in Balikpapan Bay, dragging one of the pipelines and causing it to rupture.
The ministry’s oil and gas director general Djoko Siswanto said ships are not permitted to drop anchor on that part of the bay where the pipelines are installed.
Environmental and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has dispatched ministry officials to Balikpapan, an oil and mining hub in the island of Borneo, to spearhead the cleanup effort and to assess the adverse impact on the bay’s ecosystem and biodiversity. Pertamina has deployed 15 cleaning vessels.
Siti Nurbaya said the ministry team will measure the length of the coastline impacted by the spill. They found that it has so far polluted 34 hectare mangrove wetlands in Kariangau village and 6,000 mangrove trees in another village.
“We have asked Pertamina to prioritize cleaning the oil slick in waters close to human settlements to get rid of the oil’s nauseating smell and other imminent health hazards,” Siti Nurbaya said.
The team also collected oil booms, or temporary floating barriers, from oil companies operating in the region to contain the oil spill and by late Wednesday, the team has collected up to 70 meter cubic oil slick.
“We are coordinating with the police, which will launch a criminal investigation into the case. The forestry ministry will assist in determining the loss suffered by locals and the compensation for those affected,” Rasio Ridho Sani, forestry ministry’s director general for law enforcement said.
Octavinus, a search and rescue official in Balikpapan said locals began to see oil slick floating on the waters on Mar. 31 midnight and it was sparked on fire before noon, burning two fishing boats.
An operation was immediately dispatched to rescue the fishermen and by Apr. 3, Octavianus said they found one of the boats completely burned and all bodies of five fishermen killed in the fire.
“A coal barge with 20 crew on board was sailing by but the barge was only slightly damaged and the whole crew is safe,” he said.
Authorities in Riau province are racing against time to rescue a Sumatran tiger nicknamed Bonita and to prevent its possible slaughter by increasingly impatient locals, who have raised the option of killing the endangered species as the last resort if the tiger remains on the loose roaming a palm oil plantation area in Indragiri Hilir district.
“We are trying to calm the nerves of local people since they are threatening to kill the tiger. We have got them involved in this effort and asked them to coordinate first with us if they make their own plan to capture the tiger,” said Mulyo Utomo, a spokesperson for Riau Natural Resources and Conservation Agency, or BKSDA.
The female tiger is blamed for fatally mauling Yusri Effendi, a construction worker in Indragiri Hilir district on March 10, after he and his colleagues came across the tiger, when they thought the predator already left the site where they had been hiding for two hours. She is also blamed for mauling to death Jumiati, a local palm oil plantation worker, in January.
Local authorities have been trying for more than two months to rescue the elusive big cat from the plantation. Police and military snipers have been included in the team for their expertise to shoot the tiger with tranquilizer darts, while vets in the team have decided to increase the dosage of tranquilizer since previous efforts to sedate the tiger were unsuccessful.
“We and all related stakeholders such as military, police and tiger conservationist continue to educate the locals so they have the basic knowledge on how to avoid clashing with a tiger, to assist them in trauma recovery and to patrol the area where Bonita roams,” Suharyono, head of Riau BBKSDA said last week after a meeting with representatives Pulau Muda village where the late Yusri was from.
During the meeting on Thursday, they urged authorities to capture the tiger as soon as possible to prevent another mauling and the human-tiger conflict to escalate further.
This incident sends an alarming reminder that if the conflict persists, Indonesia could soon lose one of its national treasures and the last surviving tiger subspecies it has.
On March 4, another Sumatran tiger was speared to death by villagers in Mandailing Natal district of North Sumatra. They grew anxious after a tiger was spotted roaming under a stilt house in Bangkelang village. Prior to that, rumours had been rife about a “shapeshifter” in the form of a tiger prowling local fields, where a villager had been badly injured.
Hotmauli Sianturi, the head of North Sumatra BKSDA said conservationists had advised against killing the animal and explained to residents that the big cat was endangered and protected by law.
But when conservationists and vets arrived at the village with tranquilizer darts, locals blocked them from reaching the house where the tiger had been spotted. They later they received reports that the tiger had been killed. Ironically, the incident took place just a day after the United Nations’ World Wildlife Day, which this year had threats to big cats as its theme.
“We believed the tiger was sick and weak. We were told it didn’t fight back when the villagers attacked him,” agency spokesman Alfianto Siregar said.
Pictures of the tiger’s disemboweled carcass strapped to a wooden bench and hanging from a ceiling went viral on social media.
Siregar said a necropsy showed the tiger was a male and estimated to be two or three years old. Vets also discovered that skin patches on its face, forehead, hind legs and tail as well as its claws were missing, prompting speculation that the killing was partly triggered by the lucrative lure of illegal trade in tiger body parts.
“We are upset that a villager was injured by the tiger but we also regret the tiger’s sadistic killing, which was followed by its body parts being harvested,’” said Laksmi Datu Bahaduin, an executive officer of Forum Harimau Kita (FHK) or Our Tiger Forum based in Bogor, West Java.
Rasyid Dongaran, executive director of Sumatra Rainforest Institute, said local people were regretful for resorting to kill the apex predator, but they believed that according to age-old local wisdom, the slain tiger had crossed its customary boundaries by venturing into human settlements.
Rasyid said local people held tigers in high regards as they had coexisted peacefully in Sumatran forests since ancient times. People in some parts of Sumatra even refer tigers with the honorific title of ‘datuk’ which means leader or grandfather. In North Sumatra, tiger is referred to as ‘opung’ which also means grandfather. They also believe there is a natural consensus that tigers as solitary animals would stay within their natural habitat. By nature, tigers rarely prey on people and avoid direct contact with humans.
“Locals are used to spotting tiger paw prints on their fields and they are fine with that as long as the tigers do not roam into villages,” Rasyid said, adding that hanging the slain tiger in the ceiling was meant to prevent further harvesting of body parts.
Killing a protected species such as Sumatran tigers is punishable by up to five years imprisonment and maximum fines of 100 million rupiah, according to the 1990 Natural Conservation Law.
But Rasyid said law enforcement should be imposed on all parties that cause the conflict to escalate, such as poachers, illegal loggers and officials who turned a blind eye on the practice, which has caused massive deforestation and deprived tigers of dense natural forest as their habitat, in addition to rapid forest clearing for mining and palm oil concessions.
“Tigers are beleaguered because they are losing their forest corridors where they live and roam to find prey. Each individual tiger needs a roaming area at least 10 kilometer square,” he said.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has studied the tiger landscape in 13 tiger range countries, seven of which are in Southeast Asia – Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – and says their ranges have been reduced by 95 percent, leaving populations fragmented and isolated.
The WWF report, released in November and titled Beyond the Stripes: Save Tigers, Save So Much More, highlights the importance of conserving tigers. This also means conserving some of the world’s richest ecosystems, including the animals they prey on, thus keeping a balance in the ecosystem and conserving many other Asia’s iconic, threatened species that live in the same forest.
In Sumatra, the tiger range overlaps completely with those of the orangutan and rhinoceros, which are also endangered and have also been pushed to the brink of extinction. Keeping the forest landscape intact for tigers means protecting the various other species that live in the forest and it also means storing more carbon, which helps to mitigate climate change.
“Tiger habitats overlap nine globally important watersheds, which supply water to as many as 830 million people in India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia’s Sumatra,” the report said.
Tiger conservation is also essential for Asian sociocultural context. Tigers are depicted in folktales and various forms of civilisation in tiger range countries, many of which portray tiger as a symbol of strength and power.
The economic strengths of some Asian countries earned them the term “tiger economies”. One of Indonesia’s most powerful military commands, Siliwangi, which oversees the country’s most populous province of West Java, uses a depiction of the now-extinct Javan tiger for its military might symbol. Tiger is also the national animal of four Asian countries, such as Malaysia and India.
Tiger landscapes protect sacred natural sites important to a range of faiths and culture in Asia and areas where indigenous people live. According to the report, conserving tiger landscapes would help to protect cultures, if done with sensitivity to human needs.
Sunarto, a wildlife ecologist with the WWF Indonesia in Riau, said Indonesia has the ability to prevent the loss but it will require political will and leadership at the national level.
“It requires a national figure at the top who is vocal to spearhead tiger conservation efforts to make people really listen and pay attention,” he said.
“This is what I find really lacking in Indonesia. Are we ready to lose our Sumatran tiger? We are seeing a fast rate of tigers pushed to extinction in just over two generations, whereas tigers have existed in our forests for hundreds of years,” he added.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Sumatran tiger as critically endangered. There are an estimated 300 to 400 tigers living in the Sumatran forest where they face constant poaching threats and are losing their natural habitat due to rapid deforestation. Indonesia already lost its Javan and Balinese tiger subspecies which went extinct in the 1920’s and 1940’s respectively.
“It is unfortunate that we can’t keep our treasure. Sumatran tiger is a symbol that we still have an ancient animal in our land, which has evolved and survived over centuries,” Rasyid said.
This story has been updated from its original version in Bangkok Post