The forests of Berbak in Jambi Province where this project is focused are actually part of an even larger block of swamp forest that extends into the neighbouring province of South Sumatra, totalling a block of around 5-6000 square kilometres. As such, the area represents one of the largest Tiger Conservation Landscapes in Sumatra still listed as ‘data deficient’. But this area is under threat; between 1990-2000 25% of the forest was lost to illegal logging, clearance and fire. Current work by ZSL, under funding provided by 21st Century Tiger, confirms that not only are tiger numbers extensive but also that threats and conflicts are escalating at a worrying rate.
This ZSL project set up the foundations required for a Wildlife Crime Unit in conjunction with government authorities. It utilises existing members of the Berbak National Park forest police and the local wildlife authority police to form the core of the Berbak wildlife crime unit. ZSL is the facilitator of the team through a Wildlife Community Officer.
The unit is modelled on, trained by and closely linked to the highly successful PHSTKS (Pelistarian Harimau Sumatera Taman Kerinci Seblat) team currently run by Kerinci National Park and Flora and Fauna International FFI who also receive funds from 21st Century Tiger.
In the first year of this project the team were selected, trained and set to work. The longer term objectives are to build up the network of informants, establishing lines of communications and intelligence gathering necessary to make this team a viable force within the forest.
This project is part of the larger Berbak carbon initiative, which aims to conserve the remaining swamp forest ecosystem and its constituent wildlife, particularly tigers, by using the relatively new carbon markets based on avoided deforestation, whereby carbon buyers are willing to pay for carbon emissions avoided by tackling deforestation.