Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI) monitoring team in Aceh, Indonesia have proven themselves to be just as brave and stealthy as the tigers they are working to conserve, capturing a photograph of a Sumatran tiger just 30 metres away.

Using information provided by local people on where best to see a tiger, community ranger Teuku Boyhaqi used leaves to camouflage himself and only had to wait for 45 minutes before a tiger appeared and he took the photo. The tiger was male, approximately five years old and appeared to be tracking a sambar deer that had walked past just minutes earlier.

“FFI has been working in Aceh since 1998 and Teuku Boyhaqi is the only one of our rangers to have seen a wild tiger. I call him ‘the special one’ since he took the photo. Most tiger conservationists in Aceh, Indonesia and around the world only capture tigers by camera trapping,” says Dewa Gumay, FFI’s Aceh Programme Manager.

Sumatran tigers are the smallest of the tiger subspecies and are highly threatened due to poaching and habitat loss. FFI is protecting tigers and other wildlife in Aceh, Riau and Kerinci Seblat National Park – these forests hold more than 60% of all wild Sumatran tigers.

Using camouflage techniques to blend in with the environment. Credit: Teuku Boyhaqi/FFI Aceh.

Using camouflage techniques to blend in with the environment. Credit: Teuku Boyhaqi/FFI Aceh.

Great Kerinci Snare Sweep

In Kerinci Seblat National Park, FFI is protecting tigers through constant patrolling for snares and undercover investigations by rangers. Beginning in 2012, the annual Great Kerinci Snare Sweep is a competition between the different Tiger Protection and Conservation Units (TPCU) to help protect wildlife as well as build the capacity of rangers. Each patrol team scores points for the number and type of snare they find; the team with the most points receives a bonus to share with their families over the holidays.

The snare sweep competition takes place during the holy month of Ramadan when in the past there has been an increase in some areas of hunting activities. This is due to an increased market demand for extra meat to break the fast and celebrate Hari Raya (the festive day that marks the end of Ramadan). Deer are key prey species for tiger and the snares used to trap them are often strong enough to capture and kill a tiger.

This year, first prize was awarded to M. Rozali and his team who discovered eight active tiger snares and 18 deer snares. Pugmarks (animal footprints) revealed that Sumatran tigers were present in the areas these snares were set. Second prize was awarded to Seven X and his team who recorded and destroyed nine active tiger snares; again there was evidence of a tiger present in the area. In third place Muslim and his team rescued a heavily pregnant red muntjak from a poacher’s snare and uncovered a total of 148 active deer snares and 137 bird snares set for forest pheasant and other ground birds. While these numbers are high, patrol records appear to show a decrease in poaching compared to the last two years.

First prize in the Great Kerinci Snare Sweep 2016 went to M Rozali and his team. Credit FFI/KSNP.

First prize in the Great Kerinci Snare Sweep 2016 was awarded to M. Rozali and his team. Credit FFI/KSNP.

Tiger poachers arrested

In other positive news, two tiger poachers have been formally sentenced following a joint arrest by the TPCU and Mukomuko district police. The first offender faces four years imprisonment and a fine of Rp60m (approx. $902,000) after snaring and killing a tiger in December 2015. The second offender has been sentenced to three years imprisonment and a fine of Rp30m (approx. $451,000) for acting as a criminal intermediary. These are the highest sentences ever handed down under current Indonesian wildlife law.

FFI is very proud of the hard work of our Kerinci rangers in tracking down the poachers and meticulously collecting evidence which ultimately brought about these arrests and sentencing.