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Jakarta Post

Death of rare Sumatran tiger draws ire, scorn

Apriadi Gunawan
Medan   ●   Fri, March 11, 2016

Enviromental activists have condemned the killing and butchering of a Sumatran tiger by residents of Silantom Tonga village in North Tapanuli regency, North Sumatra.

Activists from the Sumatra Rainforest Institute, Scorpion, the Indonesian Species Conservation Program and the Orangutan Information Center on Thursday flocked to the North Sumatra Police headquarters in Medan to urge the force to thoroughly investigate the mistreatment of the tiger.

 A spokesperson for the groups, Panut Hadisiswoyo, said they had called on the police to take tough action against the police officer reported to have shot the tiger dead after it wandered into Silantom Tonga.

'€œThis was a barbaric act and a violation of law,'€ Panut said after meeting officers from the North Sumatra Police'€™s special crime directorate.

When tigers wandered into villages, he went on, they should not be killed, but shooed away back into the jungle.

'€œIronically, it was a police officer '€” who should be aware that the Sumatran tiger is a protected animal '€” who shot the tiger,'€ he said.

Directorate head Adj. Sr. Comr. Robin Simatupang said the force would begin investigation upon reception of complete reports from the North Tapanuli Police..

The 1.5-meter female tiger weighing 80 kilograms was shot dead by an officer from the Pangaribuan Police on Monday, at the request of local people who had alerted the police after the beast wandered into the village.

The villagers then dismembered and butchered the carcass, distributing the meat to local households to be eaten.

Such practices are locally referred to as binda, a tradition whereby any wild animals encountered are slaughtered and eaten.

Anthropologist and noted Batak cultural figure Bungaran Simanjuntak of Medan State University insisted that eating wild animals, especially protected ones, was not a Batak tradition.

If certain Batak communities ate tiger meat, he said, it might mean they were related to a certain cult or local tradition.

'€œFor a long time now, we Bataks have shunned eating the meat of Sumatran tigers,'€ Bungaran said.

Animals traditionally eaten by the Batak people as part of certain traditions included buffalo, swine, cows and goats, he said.

'€œIronically, it was a police officer '€” who should be aware that the Sumatran tiger is a protected animal'€” who shot the tiger.'€

Bungaran added that although the killing of the tiger was intolerable, he did not want to rush to blame the denizens of Silantom Tonga.

'€œIt'€™s possible that they didn'€™t realize that the Sumatran tiger was a protected species,'€ he suggested.

To prevent similar incidents from reoccurring, he urged authorities to inform villagers of which species were endangered and should not be eaten.

North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) protection section head Joko Iswanto said the agency would summon 50 residents of Silantom Tonga for questioning.

Questioning, Joko said, would be carried out in stages, starting from village leaders to local community figures. '€œWe will announce later whether they are guilty or not,'€ he said.

'€œWe have noted 50 names allegedly involved in the distribution of the tiger meat,'€ he added.

BKSDA data show that the population of Sumatran tigers in North Sumatra is sharply decreasing as a result of conflict with humans.

In 2014 a Sumatran tiger was speared to death by people in Toba Samosir regency, while last year, a 5-year-old tiger almost died after having its leg amputated. The leg was decaying after being caught in a trap set by residents in Batu Madinding subdistrict, Batang Natal district, Mandailing Natal regency.

The Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program (WCSIP) has recorded a decrease in the population of Sumatran tigers from 150 in the 1990s to 100 as of today; the majority live in and around Mount Leuser National Park, which straddles the border between North Sumatra and Aceh.