Fidelis E. Satriastanti
Kerinci Seblat National Park has approximately 166 Sumatran tigers, a program official said on Thursday.
Dian Risdianto, the head of the park’s tiger program, said the number of tigers was suitable for the size of Kerinci Seblat, giving the animals room to roam.
The park covers about 1.4 million hectares and straddles four provinces in Sumatra — Jambi, Bengkulu, West Sumatra and South Sumatra.
Most of the tigers, according to Dian, are concentrated in four main areas of the park. He said the data on the tigers was gathered between 2006 and 2009, using camera traps and patrols.
With the three-year lapse since the monitoring program ended, the numbers could have changed slightly because of factors like poaching, Dian said.
The tiger monitoring program is expected to begin again next year, with financial support from donors in Germany.
More tigers may also be living on the edges of the national park, near plantations, Dian added.
According to Hariyo T. Wibisono, chairman of the Harimau Kita (Our Tigers) conservation forum, the latest survey from a coalition of NGOs found that Sumatra’s forests are home to at least 600 tigers. That is a more optimistic picture than a 1994 official report that put the head count for the rare species at between 400 and 500.
The survey, he said, was conducted from 2007 to 2009 on more than 250 square kilometers of forest covering 38 nature reserves.
Hariyo attributed the higher figure not to an increase in population, but to a better extrapolation method.
He said the method used in the 1994 survey was not as accurate as that used in the more recent study. The earlier research, he added, surveyed only seven locations: five national parks and two conservation forests in Sumatra.
The Sumatran tiger is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Trading in or possession of these protected animals or their parts is a criminal offense.
However, the tiger population continues to dwindle because of illegal hunting and trading, with conservationists saying several of the animals die each year as a result of traps, poaching or other human actions.
Dian said about 100 tiger traps were found and destroyed recently inside Kerinci Seblat.
“The illegal hunters are still aiming for our tigers. We should always be alert because they are all we have,” he said.
Police arrested a taxidermist in Depok last month and seized several stuffed animals, including 14 tigers, two leopards, one clouded leopard, a lion and three bears
There were also two sacks full of tiger pelts, as well as a stuffed tiger head and four deer heads.
Police officers said the suspect, Feri, had already lined up buyers and was planning to sell the hides for at least Rp 10 million ($1,100) each.
The seizure came a day after Greenpeace Indonesia reported that the Sumatran tiger was disappearing from the wild at a rate of around 51 animals a year.
Additional reporting from Antara