By Rebecca Foges
Recent conflict between humans and tigers highlights the desperate situation.
Loss of habitat is forcing tigers in Sumatra to venture into villages to look for food – causing an escalation in human: tiger conflict. At least four tigers, and nine people, have been killed in the past month alone. With less than 400 individuals left in the wild, the Sumatran tiger is the most threatened of all the tiger subspecies.
FFI has been working to save the Sumatran tiger through our project in Kerinci Seblat National Park, which contains over 130 tigers. Our Tiger Protection and Conservation Units patrol the park, collect information to arrest poachers, and work to resolve any human-tiger conflict that may arise in the villages surrounding the park.
Debbie Martyr, Manager of the Kerinci programme, explains:
“Oil palm and pulp timber companies threaten to take the last forests buffering the park, while illegal clearances endanger tens of thousands of hectares forests within the national park. Land clearance and conversion of forest is killing tigers, is killing people and of course gives access to remaining forests for poachers.
“We recognised conflict as the second biggest threat – after poaching – to Sumatran tiger survival back in 2001 and so prioritise the prevention of conflict possibility of revenge killing of tigers.
“It’s important to determine whether there are certain ‘problem’ tigers who do the main brunt of the attacking or if it’s many tigers. We intend to collect tiger DNA from the saliva from one of the victims to use as reference for any future attacks. We are also going to try to get funding for GPS collars for those tigers caught and relocated to track whether they re-attack.”
FFI will continue to do its best to reduce the potential for human-tiger conflict, most important of which is simply to protect the tiger’s habitat and its prey, reducing the need for it to venture out of the park boundaries.