By Leif Cocks, President of Yayasan Konservasi Ekosistem Hutan Sumatera (KEHUS)
[crb_slide image=”https://www.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/tigress.jpg” credits=”Tigress and cubs. Photo by Brian McKay” title=”” text=””]
Sumatran Tigers are in vital need of protection. Numbering less than 400, these tigers – the last of the Sunda Tiger subspecies – are now fighting for survival.
Yayasan Konservasi Ekosistem Hutan Sumatera (KEHUS), our grassroots non-profit in Sumatra, is actively working with Rainforest Trust and local communities to secure three leases in Sumatra’s Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem for Sumatran Tigers.
With the support of Rainforest Trust, KEHUS will conserve over 200,000 acres of lowland rainforest for Sumatran Tigers and other threatened species.
Experience has shown that land protection alone, however, is not enough to save tigers. With this in mind, we have developed a comprehensive protection plan, including the use of monitoring programs and the creation of Wildlife Protection Units (WPUs), which will provide extensive on-the-ground protection.
The first step is monitoring tiger populations to get an idea of how many species remain unprotected.
Camera trap surveys conducted within the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape have already helped us with this; We now know that 12 adult Tigers and three cubs live in and use the habitat we propose to protect.
Photos of these tigers have been analyzed by stripe pattern and sex to allow us to distinguish individuals. The resulting data is compiled and examined using spatial models, to estimate population density.
[crb_slide image=”https://www.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/cameratrap.jpg” credits=”Up-close camera trap footage from Bukit Tigahpuluh. Photo courtesy KEHUS” title=”” text=””]
Camera traps are not the only tool we have to protect tigers. The Wildlife Protection Units (WPUs) funded by KEHUS will be responsible for patrolling the leased properties. Composed of well-trained wildlife rangers, WPUs will prevent illegal logging while securely protecting wildlife populations.
In addition, WPU employees educate local people about anti-poaching laws gather information about illegal activities, file violation reports with the forestry police, and collect wildlife data as an evaluation tool for ecosystem conditions.
With the help of forest guards, tiger poaching in the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape has decreased; however, tigers now face other threats as sources of prey continue to decline due to human hunting. Without stable sources of prey, Sumatran Tiger populations will continue to decrease. We are developing new strategies to decrease ungulate poaching and allow tiger densities to rebound.
Although threats to Sumatran Tigers will always remain, we strongly believe that our protection plan, which is based on our extensive field experience in Sumatra,
can provide these incredible creatures with the real protection they need to rebound.