The Sumatran tiger protectors

By 28th July 2021August 31st, 2021Blog, FFI

World Ranger Day is dedicated to the courageous men and women putting themselves at risk protecting wild species and places. In this blog we hear from the courageous tiger protectors on the front line of tiger conservation in the heart of Sumatra.

Kerinci Seblat National Park is the second largest national park in Southeast Asia, encompassing approximately 1.35 million hectares of critical endangered Sumatran tiger habitat. Six four-man Tiger Protection and Conservation Units (TPCU) are operational with members drawn from forest-edge communities.

Even with Indonesia now the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in Asia, the Tiger Protection & Conservation Units continue to conduct SMART forest patrols, snare detection, data collection, law enforcement and human-tiger conflict mitigation to protect one of the world’s most important wild tiger populations.

The need for these tiger protectors was highlighted again this month when TPCU rangers seized two illegal firearms in KSNP over six days.

Firearm #1

The first was found in a forest camp used by local illegal loggers but was unoccupied at the time. As the team searched the illegal camp, before destroying it, they found a carefully hidden 5.5m calibre ‘airsoft’ gun. Such guns are frequently used to shoot hornbill and other large birds. There has also been evidence of their use to shoot sambar deer and, in one case, a Sumatran tiger.

Firearm #2

Three days later, after another long day patrolling, the team emerged from the forest and decided to ‘overnight’ at forest edge. Gunawan, the unit leader, said…

“There was a farmhouse and so we asked the farmer if we could overnight in his hut. He agreed, but seemed a bit distracted, he then apologised and said he had to go back to his village.  I noticed pak Sudir was giving me a wink.”

The farmer left and the team entered the hut. The reason for the farmer’s sudden urgent need to return to his village soon became apparent. Inside the farmers hut the rangers found a muzzle-loader gun or ‘kecepek’, already ‘active’ and primed.

Community ranger pak Sudir was not surprised. The farmer had previously been identified as a member of a tiger poaching syndicate broken up in 2016 after the arrest of their leader. Local authorities have been notified of the illegal weapons and will be taking appropriate action.

One of six Tiger Protection and Conservation Units

One of six Tiger Protection and Conservation Units in Kerinci Seblat National Park. From left to right: Ali Purnomo, Juanda, Suriadi, Gunawan (TPCU leader), pak Sudir (Community Ranger) & Pidie. Between them they have more than 60 years’ service to Sumatran tiger protection and conservation in the forests of Kerinci Seblat.

Protect the protectors

Tigers in Kerinci Seblat continue to face a range of threats which are anticipated to increase. We are expecting the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic to generate significant, additional, conservation challenges. However, in the face of adversity, rangers continue to work tirelessly across tiger ranges to conserve this precious species from poaching, habitat loss and illegal wildlife trade.

Send a donation to WildCats and help fund the tiger protectors.

Launched in May 2000, the Kerinci Seblat Tiger Protection Project is a collaboration between KSNP and FFI. It is partially funded by WildCats Conservation Alliance.