Banda Aceh. Search and rescue crews began the long trek into the depths of the Gunung Leuser National Park on Saturday to rescue five men who spent the last three days trapped in a tree after Sumatran tigers killed and ate a sixth member of their party, police said.
A 30-member team entered the 7,927 square-kilometer national park on Saturday after villagers’ attempts to rescue the men were thwarted by the site of four Sumatran tigers near the base of the tree, Aceh Tamiang Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Dicky Sondani said on Sunday.
“It might need two or three days to walk on foot to the depths of Leuser jungle,” Dicky said. “If the tigers are still under the tree, we will have to shoot and anesthetize them so that we can rescue the five [men].”
The men, all residents of Simpang Kiri village in Aceh Tamiang district, entered the dense national forest in search of the agarwood — known locally as gaharu — a rare and extremely expensive type of heartwood used in the production of aromatic oils and incense. Resin-infused agarwood is the result of a mold that infects the alim tree (aquilaria malaccensis), an endangered tropical evergreen found in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
A kilogram of agarwood can fetch some Rp 5 million ($505), Dicky said, but the jungles of the Gunung Leuser National Park house dangerous tigers and elephants. The police recently had to rescue another group of men trapped in the park, he said.
“It’s worse this time because there are tigers waiting for the villagers,” Dicky said. “People keep entering the jungle to look for alim wood because it’s very expensive; up to Rp 5 million ($505) per kilogram. But, well, that’s the risk; there are many tigers and elephants in Gunung Leuser’s jungle.”
The men were attacked by tigers on Thursday after they caught and killed a tiger cub in a snare meant to catch a deer, police said. Nearby tigers drawn to the scene of the injured cub and pounced on the men, killing and eating 28-year-old David as the five others climbed a tree to safety.
The residents of Simpang Kiri village entered the national park after the men called for help on their cell phones. But as the villagers neared the tree, the site of four large tigers and David’s partially eaten remains kept the rescue party at bay.
They have remained in the tree for three days.
Tiger attacks have become increasingly common in Sumatra, where palm oil and pulp plantations have destroyed much of the rainforest, shrinking animal habitats and putting the endangered tigers in contact with local residents. More than a hundred Sumatran tigers are believed to roam the grounds of the Gunung Leuser National Park, according to reports.