Life

Deforestation fuels human
tiger conflict

In the last few months six people have died after being attacked by Sumatran tigers while logging illegally inside a national park in Jambi.

A female tiger, believed to be the main culprit, has been caught. Now the Nature Conservation office, together with a number of environmental NGOs, is trying to catch other tigers believed responsible for the attacks.

The conflict between tigers and humans in Jambi is just the tip of the iceberg. As forests are destroyed, there is the possibility that similar incidents will occur in other parts of Sumatra, especially in regions that have long been known as tiger habitats.

Before the six people were killed, clashes between tigers and human had occurred in Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Riau, Bengkulu, Lampung and South Sumatra.

Catching the tigers, however, does not solve the problem. People should be safe from the threat of tiger attack, but the endangered species should not be left to go extinct.

Apart from the fact that the tigers are still hunted by poachers, the rising number of illegal loggers and farmers inside national parks across Sumatra is blamed for destroying their natural habitat.

Over the past few years, the Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia Program (WCS-IP) of Lampung has created a model to prevent conflict between tigers and humans.

Their aim is to protect the tigers in their original habitat while also keeping humans living around the forests safe from possible tiger attacks.

"Basically, conflict between tigers and the community should be prevented as early as possible. The key is the early detection of the presence of a tiger, then to take action to secure livestock and set up continuous watchman patrols," Dwi Nugroho Adhiasto, the program's Wildlife Crime Unit coordinator, said.

He added that only a few tigers were attacking and killing human beings. Most of them have left the forest because what is left of the forest is no longer enough to sustain the needs of the tigers; there is not enough food for them.

"For those tigers whose habitats are shrinking and can no longer get enough food inside the forest, it's easier to get food by attacking community livestock, which isn't supervised or given special protection," he said. The problem then arises that tigers' and humans have increased contact.

"When people enter the Sumatran tiger's territory, the tiger is most likely to attack," he said.

In the past three years, the WCS-IP has implemented a program to prevent conflict between tigers and humans, which includes a barricaded residential settlement, in the national parks of Lampung and Aceh.

Dwi said that there are many ways of overcoming conflict between tigers and people, including programs to raise community awareness of the reasons behind the problem, providing education about the necessary measures to prevent such conflict and the importance of preserving wild animals that are natural food for tigers such as forest pigs, small antelopes, monkeys and deer.

"Apart from telling residents around the forests not to catch forest pigs, antelopes, monkeys and deer, the most important thing is to help residents build secure yards for their livestock to protect them from the threat of tigers," Dwi said.

He said the ideal solution to overcoming conflict with tigers in Lampung has been introduced in several districts, including Talang 11, Talang Kalianda, Tebat Selebang, Talang Ujungpandang, as well as in Tampang in the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (TNBBS). In South Aceh, this model has been applied in Trieng Meduro Tenong, Sawang and Kampung Tinggi areas.

"The livestock yards designed as safe areas have been a 100 percent success. The proof is that since 2006, the time when the yards were first tested in Talang 11, there have been no cases of animals belonging to the residents being attacked by tigers," Dwi said.

"The tigers are still around but they do not disturb the residents or their livestock since there is still sufficient food available in the forest."

He recommended the model to be introduced in other provinces, such as Jambi, Riau, Bengkulu, West Sumatra and other areas prone to such conflicts.

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