Conservationists on Tuesday slammed a decision by the Indonesian government to allow a mining contractor company to build a road through a restoration forest in South Sumatra.
Critics claim the project could damage the sensitive ecosystem and threaten the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, the only tiger subspecies left in the country after two other subspecies became extinct in Java and Bali.
“This is contradictory to the government’s said commitment to restore forests and rehabilitate the ecosystem, that could serve as the natural habitat for wild species and a top predator such as the Sumatran tiger,” Yoan Dinata, a member of Forum Harimau Kita (Our Tiger Forum), in Jambi, said.
Once completed, the road would cut across the Harapan rainforest, a 98,555-hectare wildlife haven in South Sumatra and Jambi provinces managed by Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) as the concession holder.
The forest is the first ecosystem restoration concession in Indonesia based on a collaboration led by Burung Indonesia, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and BirdLife International.
Dinata said the existing road network built by companies managing various concessions in nearby industrial forests had already put a barrier between conservation areas inhabited by tigers.
Opening the forest for a road project could escalate human-tiger conflicts in Sumatra, he added, as tigers often entered human settlements in search of food as a result of deforestation and habitat loss.
“Forest restoration is also aimed to increase the tiger’s population. If their natural habitat is shrinking, they would not be able to breed, and we would not be able to increase their population.”
There were at least 20 tigers in the Harapan forest based on a 2015 research, according to REKI data. But camera traps installed inside the forest, which represents 20 percent of the remaining lowland forest in Sumatra, have captured tiger sightings over the years.
Hospita Yulima, REKI’s spokeswoman, told Arab News that the company so far never received formal notification from the Forestry Ministry that they had permitted the coal transport company to build a road that cuts through their concession, allowing the company to use 424 hectares of land in the forest, on which some parts of the coal road project would be constructed.
The designated areas are part of the Asian elephants’ track and the tigers’ home roaming range.
“If this permit is really issued, it is difficult for us to say that the forestry ministry supports the Harapan forest restoration.”
Arab News tried to contact the ministry for confirmation but failed to receive a response in time. Meanwhile, Diki Kurniawan, a director at the Jambi chapter of the Environmental Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHL) said that activists had urged the company to use an existing road network that goes around the forest or has been constructed by other firms in the area.
“They could negotiate with those companies to use the road, instead of opening the forest just to construct their own road,” he said. The forest is also home to an indigenous, semi-nomad community, the Batin Sembilan, who have made the forest their home for centuries.
Although some members of the community have settled in permanent dwellings inside the forest, they still rely on the forest for their livelihood by harvesting non-wood produce such as honey, resin gum, or rattan. Kurniawan said the YLBHL and 36 other civil society organizations that formed a coalition called South Sumatra-Jambi Anti Forest Destruction to reject the plan is mulling over assisting the indigenous tribe – as the party directly impacted by the project – to challenge the ministry’s decision through a legal channel.
“The road project could open access to poachers and illegal logging. We have seen from previous practices that companies that open the forests could not prevent the forest from the devastating impact,” Kurniawan said.
A critically endangered Sumatran tiger has died of insecticide poisoning in Indonesia’s Aceh province, a conservation official said on Wednesday.
The female tiger, aged between 2-3 years, was found in South Aceh district on Monday with injuries caused by a snare, said Agus Arianto, the head of the provincial government’s Nature Conservation Agency.
“A necropsy indicates it died of poisoning caused by an agricultural insecticide,” he said.
It was not clear if the tiger was deliberately poisoned.
Last month, another Sumatran tiger died after it ate a sheep laced with rat poison in neighbouring North Sumatra province.
In June, police in Aceh also arrested four people for allegedly killing a tiger with a trap and selling its hide, skull and fangs for 100 million rupiah (7,000 dollars).
Conservationists said the coronavirus pandemic had led to increased poaching in the forests on Sumatra island, as locals turn to hunting to make ends meet.
An increased amount of traps have been found in Sumatra, which is home to some of the world’s most endangered species, according to the conservation group Leuser Conservation Forum.
The Sumatran tiger is the only tiger subspecies left in Indonesia, after the tigers on the islands of Java and Bali became extinct years ago.
There are only about 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, and their population is dwindling due to poaching and loss of natural habitat caused by rapid deforestation for palm oil plantations, conservationists warn.
Australian animal experts tried and failed to free a crocodile that has been stuck for years with a motorcycle tyre around its neck, an Indonesian official said Tuesday.
Matt Wright, the host of the Nat Geo Wild series Outback Wrangler, and fellow animal wrangler Chris Wilson set up steel traps to catch the saltwater crocodile but the reptile proved to be elusive.
“They have returned to Australia but they promised to come again in May if we had not managed to remove the tyre outselves,” said Rino Ginting, the head of the team tasked with saving the crocodile, which lives in a river on Sulawesi island.
“The river is too wide and there were too many spectators, making the crocodile too afraid to walk onto dry land,” he said.
Wright wrote on Instagram on Sunday that the crocodile “has been tough to catch”.
“It’s all about getting the right opportunity to get a good run at catching him and there far and few between,” he said.
On Monday he wrote that he would “be back soon to continue operations.”
Previous attempts by local psychics, members of an Australian conservation group and a celebrity animal whisperer also failed.
The crocodile was first spotted in 2016 with the tyre in a river running through Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province.
At the time, officials at the conservation agency feared that the tyre would strangle the reptile as it grew bigger.
Local authorities estimate there are 36 crocodiles in the area.
Psychics, Australian animal rescuers and a celebrity adventurer have all failed to free a crocodile stuck with a motorcycle tyre around its neck for more than three years, but Indonesian authorities are not prepared to give up yet.
The saltwater crocodile was first spotted with the tyre in a river running through the provincial capital of Palu in 2016. At the time, officials feared that the tyre would strangle the reptile as it grew bigger.
Hasmuni Hasmar, the head of conservation in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province, is offering a reward for an expert who can end the animal’s suffering.
“Whoever can remove the tyre around the crocodile’s neck will be rewarded,” Hamuni said, adding that the money will come from his own pocket. “It’s quite substantial.”
But he’s not publicizing the amount of the reward, fearing such a move could attract people without skills to come forward and endanger themselves.
“It will draw reckless people to come and this is dangerous because there are about 36 crocodiles in the area,” he said.
In 2018, a celebrity animal rescuer, Panji The Adventurer, and his crew tried to lure the animal on to dry land, but their attempts failed.
Before that, local authorities had enlisted local sorcerers and even members of an Australian conservation group, but to no avail.
It’s not as simple as just using a tranquilizer to subdue the crocodile, Hasmuni says.
“If we go down there, other crocodiles can attack us,” he said.
Indonesian authorities detained five people in Pelalawan district of Riau province for allegedly poaching and trading body parts of rare Sumatran tigers, an official said Sunday.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry’s law enforcement and forest protection director, Sustyo Iriono, said officials from the ministry and the police seized four tiger fetuses from three suspects, including a husband and wife, during a raid on Saturday morning.
“The fetuses were stored in a plastic jar. Based on the information from those arrested, the authorities were able to arrest two more suspects and seized the skin of an adult tiger,” Iriono said.
The suspects could face up to five years in prison and a fine of 100 million rupiahs according to articles in the 1990 natural resources conservation law.
The Sumatran tiger is the last of Indonesia’s three subspecies of tigers that still exists and is listed as a critically endangered species. The big cat has been pushed to the brink of extinction due to its natural habitat rapidly perishing as a result of massive deforestation.
According to data from the forestry ministry, there are roughly 600 Sumatran tigers now living in the species’ natural habitat, but human encroachment on the protected forest that the tigers inhabit has caused frequent human-tiger conflict.
A farmer was found dismembered last week after a suspected attack by a Sumatran tiger in his coffee field in South Sumatra province. Another farmer was injured.
It was the second fatal tiger attack in the province in less than a month. A camper from Musi Banyuasin was injured in a tiger attack while he was camping in Pagaralam’s Gunung Dempo in November.
A severely wounded orangutan has been found with 74 airgun pellets in her body in Indonesia’s Aceh province, officials said Wednesday.
The orangutan, estimated to be 30 years old, was rescued on Saturday in Subulussalam district with broken bones, bruises and cuts to her legs, said Sapto Aji Prabowo, the head of the government-run Nature Conservancy Agency in Aceh on Sumatra island.
“An X-ray photo showed 74 airgun pellets spread all over its body,” he said.
A one-month old baby orangutan found with her died from malnutrition while being transported to a rehabilitation centre in North Sumartra province, the Forestry and Environment Ministry said.
The adult orangutan is in stable condition and has been given the name Hope, it said.
“We condemn the savage attack on orangutans carried out by irresponsible people,” the ministry said in a statement.
Classified as “critically endangered” species, orangutans number around 111,000 in the wild on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, according to the World Wildlife Fund conservation group.
Conservationists have said the species’ survival is threatened by poaching and the destruction of their habitat through the logging industry.
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
Semboja – Gerhana was on the brink of death when he
was rescued, starved, underweight and with an air rifle bullet lodged
in his left shoulder and no hair.
But now, the 11-month-old orangutan with reddish crew-cut hair can
move from one tree to another with agility and eats forest food with
Gerhana is one of eight “pupils” at the newly established forest school founded by Austria-based conservation group Four Paws in a
rainforest on the Indonesian part of Borneo island, where orphan orangutans will be raised in a way that matches their species’ natural
upbringing in the wild.
“The goal of the project is to train these orangutans so that in a few
years, they will be able to return to a natural forest and live there
completely free and independent,” said Signe Preuschoft, an
experienced primatologist who heads the school.
Preuschoft runs the school with local conservation group Jalan Pulang
and an Indonesian team of 15 animal caretakers, a biologist and two
veterinarians, with support from the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry
The orangutans travel daily from their sleeping quarters to the school
and learn with their human surrogate mothers the skills that their
birth mothers would normally teach them, such as climbing, foraging
and building a sleeping nest.
They are divided into different classes, depending their individual
development level and pace, Preuschoft said.
Gonda was kept by a family of farmers who treated him like a human
child, resulting in his muscles and use of hands and feet being
Now at 17 months, he can hang upside down and hold onto a branch with
only his legs.
“Gonda still has a long way to unlearn his human dependence and enjoy orangutan-appropriate behaviors,” Preuschoft said.
“Eating forest foods and playing in the trees are his biggest
challenges,” she 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