Safeguarding Sumatran tigers: evaluating effectiveness of law enforcement patrols and local informant networks

By 6th May 2015April 19th, 2018Conservation Papers


1. The United Nations recently listed illegal wildlife trade as a serious crime because of the escalating demand for highly prized species, such as tiger and rhinoceros, and the failure to effectively control the trade. In turn, this places greater urgency on reducing supply by securing source populations of these species. Yet, whether law enforcement strategies designed to mitigate poaching are succeeding remains poorly understood, despite the millions of dollars invested annually in this mainstay conservation strategy.

2. Here, we assess the performance of one of Asia’s longest running law enforcement programmes, from Kerinci Seblat National Park in Sumatra, by investigating whether forest ranger patrols reduced the occurrence of snare traps set for tiger and its ungulate prey base; local informant reports on poaching influenced ranger patrol success; and the resulting population trends of target species changed in response to these conservation actions.

3. A total of 4433 snare traps were removed during 642 foot patrols conducted from 2000 to 2010. Controlling for the influence of varying detection probabilities, as well as accessibility and other possible determinants of illegal hunting, revealed that sites with a greater frequency of
patrols, rather than the combined distance walked, had a lower occurrence of snare traps in succeeding years.

4. Patrols conducted on the basis of local informant ‘tip-offs’ were significantly more likely to detect snare traps than routine patrols, with reports increasing detections by over 40%.

5. There were no significant changes in the occupancy status of the tiger prey base from 2004 to 2011, suggesting that it remained stable during this period. The relatively good condition of prey and predator populations in Kerinci Seblat National Park was further supported by the results of an independent survey conducted in 2008–2009 which revealed a widespread tiger occurrence.

6. Synthesis and applications. Our results not only demonstrate the effectiveness of the Kerinci Seblat law enforcement strategy in protecting wildlife, but highlight the benefits from cultivating a network of reliable informants. The study also represents a critical step in helping these urgently needed conservation assessments to become common place in the fight to save flagship species

Matthew Linkie, Deborah J. Martyr, Abishek Harihar, Dian Risdianto, Rudijanta T. Nugraha, Maryati, Nigel Leader-Williams and Wai-Ming Wong. Safeguarding Sumatran tigers: evaluating effectiveness of law enforcement patrols and local informant networks. Journal of Applied Ecology 2015 doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12461