Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesia, home to the Sumatran tiger, joined celebrations on International Tiger Day, observed on July 25, to raise support for the conservation of tigers.
The Sumatran tiger is the only surviving tiger in the country, and the smallest of the five tiger subspecies in the world. In the 1970s, the number of Sumatran tigers had reached some 1,000, though the figure decreased to 800 by the 1980s. Currently, the population is believed to be between 400 and 600 tigers.
In earlier days, Indonesia was home to three tiger species, including the Bali tiger, which became extinct in 1940, and the Java tiger, declared extinct in the 1980s.
While environmentalists, experts and officials campaigned during Global Tiger Day, still, the few remaining Sumatran tigers have to struggle to survive, as Sumatra Island has been ravaged by hundreds of hotspots, similar to forest fires, since July 2019.
Riau Province on Sumatra Island has been the most affected by forest fires. Wildfires also broke out in the province’s Tesso Nilo, a 81,700-hectare national park, which is a habitat for critically endangered tigers and elephants.
A video of a tiger running near the fence of the Chevron facility in Siak District, Riau, went viral in early August 2019.
Head of the Riau BBKSDA (Natural Resource Conservation Office) Suharyono confirmed the receipt of information from Vice President External Affairs of Chevron Hasim M. Noor explaining that the video was taken by a security guard at Kilometer 5 of the eastern Trans-Sumatra road near Gathering Station (GS) facility 5 of Chevron in Minas.
It was the first time that a Sumatran tiger was found roaming near the oil facility in the morning, Suharyono stated.
"This is because the land and forest fires had destroyed the habitat, so this species had fled. I hope that it would not be viewed as an enemy," he added.
The tiger exited the compound by scaling a two-meter-high fence.
He also confirmed that the Sumatran tiger is mature and healthy. The agency has sent a team to rescue the endangered species, Suharyono said.
He believes the tiger was headed to the Sultan Syarif Hasyim Forest Park, located some 12 kilometers from the GS 5 area.
Recently, Riau released two Sumatran tigers, named Bonita (female) and Atan (male), who had become involved in conflicts with local villagers.
Bonita was rescued from a plantation in Tanjung Simpang Village in Indragiri Hilir District on January 3, 2018, while Atan was removed from a residential area in Burung Island, also in the district on November 18, 2018.
In North Sumatra, a Sumatran tiger that had eaten a man and a goat last June was finally trapped and moved to West Sumatra's Dhamasraya Sumatran Tiger Rehabilitation Center in July 2019.
"The Barumun Sumatran Tiger Sanctuary in Padang Lawas, North Sumatra, can no longer accommodate additional tigers, as an adult male tiger named Monang, adult tigress called Gadis and two 10-month-old cubs are living there," Irzal Azhar, head of the North Sumatra Nature Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said.
The tiger was trapped on July 16, 2019, in Hutabargot Village, Sosopan Sub-district, Padang Lawas District, North Sumatra. The Sumatran tiger's right leg was possibly injured in a trap.
The trap was set by the North Sumatra BKSDA, in cooperation with the Padang Lawas district authorities in May 2019, following several incidents.
Forest fires often compel Sumatran tigers to leave their habitats and head further away in search of food.
"In case of a forest fire, an effort must be made to rescue tigers immediately," said Director General for Ecosystem and Natural Resource Conservation of the Environmental and Forestry Ministry Wiratno.
The Ministry will focus on the preservation of Sumatran tigers by constructing a tiger rehabilitation center in Riau, Wiratno added.
Injured tigers, after being released, will be fitted with GPS satellite collars to monitor their movements before being released into the wilderness.
Indonesia remains in a state of emergency because of the use of animal traps. Poachers have set up some 3,000 traps, including for Sumatran tigers in conservation forest areas.
The Ministry plans to organize a campaign against animal traps and has appealed to companies to remove their traps. It also urged people to stop the hunting of boars, which tigers feed on.
In the meantime, data from the Directorate General of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation show that over 50 percent of the population of endangered animals are found outside conservation areas, both in timber estates and protected forests.
Based on an analysis, the population of Sumatran tigers in their natural habitat reaches only 603 in 23 habitat enclaves, according to Wiratno.
However, their existence is threatened due to poaching, illegal trade and loss of habitat due to land conversion or climate change.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) put Sumatran tiger on the Red List of Threatened Species in 1996.
The comprehensive adoption of a cultural approach is also deemed necessary to preserve Sumatran tigers surviving in the wilderness.
In the past, the Sumatran people, such as those in Kerinci, Jambi Province, lived in stilt houses in harmony with many species, including tigers, according to Hizbullah Arief, communication and reporting staff of the Tiger Project of the UNDP Sumatra Tiger Management Unit, speaking in Batam, Riau Islands Province, on the sidelines of a discussion on Sumatran tiger preservation efforts last July.
The people had applied local wisdom and led a life in harmony with the environment, he pointed out.
Sumatran tigers are still held in high regard, as are called "datuk" and "ompunk," among other names commonly used to honor elderly people. Moreover, several Sumatrans also believe in the existence of "human tigers" and tigers that protect sacred places.
Legendary stories about tigers could help support the preservation of the Sumatran tiger species.