Over the next few weeks we are celebrating the dedication of the FFI/Kerinci Seblat Tiger Protection & Conservation Unit (TPCU) team, and sharing members of the TPCU reflections on COVID 19 around Kerinci Seblat and its impacts. Here is Juanda in his own words.
Juanda joined the team in late 2012, when a third TPCU was formed to strengthen protection of key tiger populations in the west of the national park in Bengkulu. He lives just outside the park-edge town of Lubuklingau in South Sumatra province, a municipality notorious as an illegal wildlife trade entrepot.
“Down here, in Lubuklinggau, this Corona virus has had a big impact on the illegal wildlife trade, I think since the beginning of April. Cars and motorbikes coming into the town are being checked by the police and local government people and that is a real problem for the poachers and the traders because they are worried about getting wildlife to their shops or warehouses in the town – or sending on to other cities. The amount of traffic coming in and out of Lubuklinggau has really dropped. There are police patrols everywhere, all the time. People are being stopped and asked why they are travelling, where they are going. I went to see my mother and I had to do rat runs all the way to avoid being stopped by the police. It’s different in the villages, people are just getting on with life, going to their rice padi or their farms, but in the towns, it is really tight even though we are not yet in a full lock-down, if you go outside not wearing a mask, you get hit with a fine of Rp200,000 just like that. But it won’t last, I think. *L**n, the illegal wildlife trader in ** has just been elected as headman of his village and, as soon as police stop all these road blocks, I think he and the other illegal wildlife traders will be back to buying tigers from poachers. Perhaps he already is and has found a way to get round all these checks. But the pangolin blackmarket price has really dropped, I think ever since this Corona plague started a lot of people don’t want to get close to a pangolin or to buy pangolins.”