WWF camera traps recorded an astounding 12 tigers in just two months in the central Sumatran landscape of Bukit Tigapuluh, including two mothers with cubs. A video camera trap captured footage of three young tiger siblings playfully chasing a leaf.
“Our team was thrilled to discover 47 tiger images in our camera traps, from which we identified six unique individuals,” said Karmila Parakkasi, who leads WWF’s tiger research team in Sumatra. “That was the highest number of tigers and tiger images obtained in the first month of sampling we’ve ever experienced. And then the results from the second month were even more impressive – not just one tiger family but two, with another six tigers.”
The forests where the tigers were recorded are in Riau and Jambi provinces in the landscape known as Bukit Tigapuluh, or “Thirty Hills.” This landscape is designated a “global priority Tiger Conservation Landscape” and is one of six landscapes the government of Indonesia pledged to protect at last November’s tiger summit of world leaders in Russia, much of it is under imminent threat of being cleared by the pulp and paper industry.
There are estimated to be only around 400 critically endangered Sumatran tigers left in the wild. Evidence of three cubs surviving is extremely rare, WWF tiger experts said, and was caught by cameras set up in the forest that are triggered by infrared sensors.
“What’s unclear is whether we found so many tigers because we’re getting better at locating our cameras or because the tigers’ habitat is shrinking so rapidly here that they are being forced into sharing smaller and smaller bits of forests,” added Parakkasi.
WWF’s analysis found the tigers are concentrated in locations with good forest cover, which includes natural forest areas inside the concession of PT. Lestari Asri Jaya of Barito Pacific Group. As soon as pending permits are granted by the government, the company could clear the forest to supply the wood to Asia Pulp & Paper of Sinar Mas Group. APP has been clearing adjacent forests already and applied to clear other forest blocks in Bukit Tigapuluh. Prominent conservation and animal welfare groups worldwide have urged the two companies and the Government of Indonesia to protect these forests instead of clearing them.
The camera traps where the mothers and cubs were filmed were set up in the corridor between Bukit Tigapuluh National Park and Bukit Rimbang Baling Wildlife Sanctuary. The corridor itself is not designated as a protected area by the Indonesian government. Bukit Tigapuluh hosts an estimated 30 tigers, more than 150 Sumatran elephants and 130 great apes that were released here as part of the only successful reintroduction program for Sumatran orangutans
“This video confirms the extreme importance of these forests in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem and its wildlife corridor,” said Anwar Purwoto, director of WWF-Indonesia’s Forest and Species Program. “WWF calls for all concessions operating in this area to abandon plans to clear this forest and protect areas with high conservation values. WWF also urges the local, provincial and the central government to take into consideration the importance of this corridor and manage it as part of Indonesia’s commitments to protecting biodiversity.”
Analysis of likely natural forest loss in the future in Bukit Tigapuluh concludes that APP/SMG could become the single biggest destroyer of natural forest in the landscape. The forests where the tigers were filmed are among the area under threat.
A December 2010 report by WWF and partner NGOs revealed that between 2004 and 2010, Bukit Tigapuluh lost more than 200,000 hectares of forests to pulp and paper and the palm oil industries. Fifteen percent of the massive deforestation happened inside APP/SMG concessions, 12 percent inside APRIL concessions and 8 percent in logging corridors built by APP to transport wood to their pulp mills in Riau and Jambi.
Since March, WWF-Indonesia’s Tiger Protection Unit, in collaboration with Bukit Tigapuluh National Park and the local district forestry agency, has intensified efforts to protect the area from wildlife poaching, forest clearing or degradation. Last week, the Business for the Environment (B4E) Global Summit in Jakarta committed to “phase out products coming from deforestation of ecologically important forests”, like Bukit Tigapuluh’s tiger forests. WWF calls on all stakeholders to let action follow words and stop all deforestation.
WWF press release - 9 May 2011