The female tiger was lying dead, one of her paws caught in a trap. A few hundred meters away lay two other tigers, a male and a female: they too had been trapped near an oil palm plantation in East Aceh, Indonesia last weekend.
And with that, three critically endangered Sumatran tigers perished, pushing the subspecies closer to the brink of extinction in the wild. In recent years, the number of Sumatran tigers has been reduced to less than 400 individuals living in highly fragmented forests on the Indonesian Sunda Islands.
“Accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching mean this noble creature could end up disappearing like its Javanese and Balinese counterparts,” warns the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Poachers in Indonesia risk jail time and heavy fines, but many locals are willing to brave the prospect as it can be lucrative to sell dead tigers on the illegal wildlife market as demand for tiger parts remains. high in traditional Chinese medicine, which attributes healing properties to them.
Tigers could be unintended victims
Each year, up to 10 Sumatran tigers are killed by poachers, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. In this case, however, all three animals may have fallen victim to traps set by locals for other animals.
“Our first suspicion is that the tigers died after being caught in a boar trap because when we found them their feet were caught in a thick steel sling,” said local police chief Hendra Sukmana. . “We strongly condemn this incident.”
In addition to poaching, habitat loss is another threat to Sumatran tigers. Vast tracts of rainforest have been cleared around their traditional ranges to make way for palm oil and other crops grown in vast plantations in the border forests.
These plantations often pose existential threats not only to Sumatran tigers, but also to other endemic critically endangered species, including Sumatran rhinos, Sumatran orangutans, and Sumatran elephants.
However, it is encouraging that skillfully implemented conservation measures, including anti-poaching initiatives, can help stabilize the country’s population of beleaguered tigers and other animals unique to the country.
By Daniel T. Cross. Articles in English