Will the Sumatran Tiger be only a memory in the future?

by Rajiv Louis

A few days ago I read a report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on tigers. The report says tigers are soon to disappear in the wild. Tigers in the wild have decreased from its number in the year 1900 at 100.000 tigers and now we only have no more than 3800.

This is such a worrying fact, especially when I remember that the Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is the last tiger subspecies left in Indonesia. Based on data from 2014, there are only 350 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild. Two other Indonesian subspecies had already been declared extinct earlier, the Balinese Tiger in the 1940’s, and the Javanese tiger in the 1980’s. Another tiger subspecies that went extinct was the Caspian Tiger in the early 1970’s. This means three of the nine known tiger subspecies have gone extinct. Of the six surviving subspecies, the Sumatran Tiger and the South China Tiger are critical.

This worries me and makes me sad. From when I was young I had fallen in love with endangered animals such as tigers, orangutan, elephants, and other animals. I had even intended to become a veterinarian. And even though I didn’t become a veterinarian I still continue to love animals to this day.

It wouldn’t be too much to say that I was happy to have finally had the opportunity to stay in Indonesia. I could witness firsthand several endangered animals in various locations such as Kalimantan, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Papua, and other locations. I see so many ‘treasures’ in these rare animals and forests that no other nations have.

The way I see it one important conservation effort that needs to be done right now is protecting tigers. So many tree cutting and forest fires, and hunts at Sumatran forests, they have all contributed to the decline of tigers.

When in fact tigers have an important role as the apex predator in the food chain. The tiger has an important role in controlling the population of wild prey under it, in order to keep balance between the prey animals and the vegetation.

Involvement of various parties

What can we do to save tigers from extinction? The way I see it we can’t just leave it to the government alone. The government has done some efforts to help tiger conservation, by conducting Sumatran Tiger conservation outside their native habitat. They’ve done this with the goal of protecting the population number of tigers. This task has also been made mandatory for zoos in Indonesia.

In addition, the Indonesian government has also helped conservation at the tiger’s native habitat, which are the lowland rainforests and the peat lands of Sumatra today. Conserving these natural habitats have of course helped to achieve protection and targets for population growth, on course to double as planned by the year 2022.

For that a landscape approach called Tiger Conservation Landscape (TCL) is being carried out. The five priority areas for TCL are Leuser-Ulu Masen, Kerinci Seblat-Batanghari, Bukit Barisan Selatan-Bale Rejang, Berbak-Sembilang, and Kampar-Kerumutan.

In addition, involvement of NGO’s such as WWF Indonesia in cooperation with the Indonesian government continues to be needed. In the year 2004, the Indonesian government declared the important site, Tesso Nilo, as a National Park to ensure the safe future of Sumatran Tigers.

In addition I’m also happy to see private sector efforts involved. One of them as being done by businessman Tommy Winata through his Yayasan Artha Graha Peduli (AGP), with its activities for Sumatran Tiger conservation. He has spearheaded the conservation of the Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation (TWNC) site, with 44.500 hectares of land and 14.500 square meters of water managed independently since 1996.

What is also important to do is the effort to socialize public consciousness to protect the tigers to all Indonesian citizens. For example, inviting locals to no longer hunt tigers, that is also important.

I myself have this obsession to one day build a wildlife conservation site. If I would have 10 thousand hectares of land one day, I would build it. I would perhaps build a Sumatran Tiger conservation site, so that one day my grandchildren would still be able to see Sumatran Tigers first-hand and not only from pictures.