Meeting Granny Nenek!
What happens when you come face to face with a Sumatran tiger
by Iswadi, Lingkar Institute
Between 11 and 16th of May the Rapid Response Unit patrol team conducted a SMART patrol in the forests in the Pinang Belapis area Kerinci Seblat National Park with the team composing five rangers drawn from the national park, members of Lingkar Institute and the park-edge community.
Day One saw the team taking a long hot walk through farmland to enter the national park. Sadly, the RRU met an area where almost 10 acres (four hectares) of forest, likely to be within the national park, which had very newly been cut down for farmland.
There was nobody in the cleared area which was just inside the national park and the team found nothing that might identify the people responsible and so the patrol continued.
The next day, now deep inside the national park forest, was rather more interesting.
At about 11am, Rafik, the ranger who was walking in the front suddenly stopped dead in his tracks, his body rigid as he frantically gave a hand signal to the team behind to stop and retreat. As they stared at him, he whispered, hoarsely: – ”Nenek! There is Granny in front of me. Back! Back! Go back!”
In any other country in the world, the presence of a grandmother at the side of a trail deep in the forest would not make a forest ranger team retreat, with great caution, very, very slowly. But this is western Sumatra and it is very rude to call or refer to a Tiger, as ‘Tiger’ to its face and we must be respectful and use the word ‘Nenek’ – or Grandmother.
When the team had retreated far enough, Rafik, who still quite shocked, explained he had turned the corner on the trail to be confronted by a large, adult tiger sitting, very relaxed, on a large rock at the side of the path. The tiger was almost close enough to touch.
The RRU team retreated back still further and made camp for the night and, the next day, continued their patrol, making sure to avoid the exact spot where Rafik had met the tiger the day before. This time there was no meeting with ‘Nenek,’ But they did meet her supper; a rusa sambar deer, with all the signs of a being a tiger kill.
They also met a reminder of why these patrols are so important for tiger conservation – the remains of a tiger snare, dating from about two years ago before RRU patrols started to be regularly conducted in this area of the national park.