Sumatran Tiger Population Under Threat
TEMPO Interactive, Jambi
The population of Sumatra tigers is diminishing due to deforestation, but the population of the endangered tiger is expected to increase by 3 percent over the next two years.
“The number of remaining Sumatran tigers today is estimated at merely 400,” said Trisiswo, head of the Jambi Natural Resources Conservation on Sunday. According to Trisiswo, the target to increase the population of Sumatran tigers has been discussed with the government and various tiger observers.
“Basically, tiger or elephant conservation efforts are not limited only to protection from extinction. Most importantly is how to maintain the balance of nature, to create a harmonious natural ecosystem,” he said.
Sumatran tigers may become extinct in the future as a variety of complex factors greatly influence their population. Hunting, human-tiger conflicts, change in land and forest use, and encroachment or community economic factors are considered the main threats.
Head of the Kerinci Seblat Central Park (TNKS), M. Arief Toengkye, says that maintaining the habitat of Sumatran tigers is no easy task. The TNKS covers an area of 1.3 million hectares, but 42,000 hectares of that area is severely damaged.
According to Arief, the rampant encroachment of land outside the forest, tiger-human conflict and poaching, continue to push the tigers into the area of protected forest and forest conservation.
“The problem is that the forestry police personnel are limited. The TNKS with 1.3 million hectares is only manned by 200 personnel. Not to mention the area of protected forests or various other national parks in Jambi where maintenance personnel are also limited. Such conditions are a threat to the tiger ecosystem. Not to mention the hunting of animals that are tiger food,” he said.
However, he says, the government has not made the effort to maintain the habitat of Sumatran tigers to ensure they do not have the same fate as the now-extinct Javan tiger.
“Together with some of the Sumatran tiger watchdogs, involving communities in the forest areas, we continue to try to make strategic moves to preserve the forest and its ecosystems,” he said.
Darmawan Kusmanto of the Sumatran tiger Forum said the last known species of tigers in Indonesia, the Bali tiger and the Javan tiger, have been extinct since the 1950s and the 1980s.
Until the 1970′s, based on research results by Börner, the Sumatran tiger population was estimated at 1,000. In 1985, it dropped to 800 Sumatran tigers scattered across 26 protected areas.
“Based on various research and study by researchers, the number continues to decline from year to year. And it’s estimated that today there are 400-500 Sumatran tigers in protected forests and national parks,” said Darmawan.
Hunting, says Darmawan, is still a major threat to the Sumatran tiger population. Based on records by Sheppard and Magnus, 253 Sumatran tigers were illegally taken from their habitats from 1998-2002.
“Not only that, the high rate of deforestation in Sumatra is also a serious cause as it decreases their habitat. This condition is due to human activities to explore, and change the function of the plantations or settlements, both legally and illegally,” he said.