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Tiger Protection Project – Auckland Zoo funded

Project name: Strengthening the Consensus for Protection of Sumatran Tiger in Bengkulu Area of Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra

Location: Bengkulu, Sumatra, Indonesia

Goal: To secure and strengthen protection and conservation of Sumatran tiger in and adjoining a national park which protects Sumatra’s single most important tiger population in  partnership with the Kerinci Seblat National Park

Objective 1: Strengthen awareness of the MUI Fatwa No. 04/2014 on hunting and trade in tiger and other endangered species in key villages in Lebong and North Bengkulu districts.

Objective 2: Maintain actions to protect and conserve wild Sumatran tiger in the far south of Kerinci Seblat National Park area through Rapid Response Unit SMART forest patrols, managing community information networks, investigations and wildlife crime law enforcement.

Objective 3: Strengthen conservation of Sumatran tiger and other endangered species in the project area by continuing the guardianship program for active hunters and forest crime recidivists who have been identified as still carrying out illegal activities.

Background:

This project funded by the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund aims to support the work being carried out by the Lingkar Institute in the Lebong district of Bengkulu. This is an area of particular concern,  bordered on three sides by national park forests but where pressure on the TPCUs elsewhere means the program team does not have the capacity to conduct the focused range of actions required to address and reduce threat to tigers.

To strengthen tiger protection in this area, activities will be conducted with Lingkar to mobilising religious leaders in Lebong district to socialise the Fatwa issued by the Indonesian Council of Islamic Scholars, known as the Majelis Ulama Indonesia, (MUI) which prohibits Muslims to hunt rare and endangered wildlife such as Sumatran tiger.

This ground-breaking religious ruling was issued nationally in 2014 but is only now being communicated to mosque congregations at a local level in Sumatra and so very few of the predominantly Muslim community in Lebong district are aware that that the hunting of rare animals such as tigers is not only illegal under Indonesian national law but also forbidden under Islam.

MUI leaders will be working with the project team and government partners to build a broad local community consensus supporting effective conservation of wild tigers.

Rapid Response patrols or Unit Reaksi Cepat comprised local national park rangers and officers of other government agencies, including Lebong district police,  work in key forest-edge areas to strengthen and extend forest edge community information networks to secure information on the suspected active threat to tigers in national park forests in the area for a swift targeted patrol response.

In 2020, this project piloted a ‘foster’ or guardianship procedure to support poachers upon release from prison or a known/suspected recidivist to secure long-term change in their behaviour in a country where there is no ‘parole’ system or post-release supervision or support or ‘care in the community’ scheme for ex-offenders.

This guardianship programme continues in 2021/22 to provide special counselling by project partners (MUI, National Park Authority, Law Enforcement Authority) to encourage a change in behaviour. A public declaration of a willingness to stop hunting by these attendees aims to also influence other hunters and other recidivists to stop illegal activities in the forestry sector.