Whoever said it was hard to see tigers in the wild was lying. Of course, I am being deliberately facetious, but I have just been incredibly fortunate, which has made my colleagues very envious judging by how fast the news has spread around the office.
Out of no more than several hundred Sumatran tigers scattered across this largely untamed island, I was lucky enough to see a mother and a cub, five minutes after stepping out of the car on Day 1 in the field.
I could only see the tigers through the zoom of someone else’s video camera, and didn’t have my own so I could be accused of fabricating the story. But it did happen!
I was with Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI) Tiger Protection and Conservation Units (TPCUs), who have been active for ten years in and around Kerinci Seblat National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia.
Their work is a mixture of forest monitoring, looking for both evidence of tiger occupancy and poaching as well as law enforcement to investigate those involved in tiger poaching and illegal trafficking.
The fact that the tigers were comically easy to spot is testament to FFI for more than one reason.
Not only were the TPCUs acting on accurate information built up from years of trust-building with local communities, in certain areas the patrols have recorded both increases in signs of tiger presence and decreases in evidence of poaching.
Although calculating numbers of a secretive animal in a tropical rainforest is difficult, FFI is confident that the tiger population in this area is increasing and that many poachers have been deterred by the activities of the TPCUs.
Meeting the incredible people leading FFI projects on the ground makes me even more passionate about FFI, having seen for myself how dedicated and brave they truly are.
Photo credits: Evan Bowen-Jones/FFI.
With thanks to British Airways and their Communities and Conservation Initiative for supplying complimentary flights for this trip