ZSL/WCS. Rapid quantitative assessment of tigers in southern Sumatra 2006 - 07
Rapid quantitative assessment of tigers in southern Sumatra: Identifying threats and priorities while developing the tools for an island-wide status assessment.
This ZSL/ WCS project aimed to develop a rapid assessment methodology for Sumatran tiger and to employ the method in four southern Sumatran provinces; as a status and threat assessment, as a capacity building exercise and as a vehicle to promote tiger awareness.
The method will be developed in collaboration with the Indonesian Department of Forestry and all major tiger stakeholders in Indonesia.
Once developed the method will be employed in a rapid status assessment of tigers in the southern Sumatran provinces of Lampung, Bengkulu, South Sumatra and Jambi.
The Indonesian island of Sumatra is home to some of the world’s most endangered large mammals including the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros, Asian elephant and many other threatened or little-known species such as the Asian tapir, Southern serow, sun bear, Asian golden cat, dhole and clouded leopard.
In addition there are more numerous but no less important prey species of the large cats such as red muntjac, sambar, chevrotain and wild pig species. Almost all of these forest species are threatened by habitat loss and unsustainable hunting: between 1985 and 1997 it is estimated that 6.7 million hectares of Sumatra’s forest cover was lost (around 29%) and shows little signs of having abated..
In the case of tiger hunting, between 1998 and 2002 there were an estimated 253 tigers killed in Sumatra, 109 in the four provinces of southern Sumatra alone. While some killing is inadvertent through the use of non-selective snares, tigers and elephants are also targeted for body parts or as a result of conflict over crops and livestock.
Results from the ZSL Survey
SM Bentayan and SM Dangku are two Suaka Margasatwa nature reserves surveyed by ZSL with fieldwork conducted by members of the BKSDA, ZSL and volunteer parties.
The surveys were conducted in March/April 2006 (Bentayan) and August/September 2006 (Dangku) for twenty days in each site. Although tigers were the focal subject, surveys were conducted to record all medium to large terrestrial mammals and threats. Each survey included detection on foot, camera traps and questionnaires of people living in the two reserves.
Of the two reserves, Dangku has the highest conservation value, containing several critically endangered Sumatran tigers as well as several other species of high conservation importance including clouded leopard, marbled cat, sun bear and tapir. Dangku also shows the lower level of threat from human activity, with about one third to a half of the park consisting of reasonable wildlife habitat.
However, Dangku also recorded the higher rates of threat encounters, with the largest concentrations on the four edges of the remaining forest block. On the northern and southern borders, there has been large scale clearing for oil palm. However, within the interior (and where the wildlife was at the highest concentrations) there were particularly high levels of ‘pioneer’ threats. Hunting, including tiger traps, was prevalent with no attempts made to hide these activities. Many small patches within the forest were being cleared ready for burning when sufficiently dry. If not checked, these pioneer activities will rapidly lead to large scale clearing and permanent settlement.
Bentayan contains very little good wildlife habitat following the fires of 1997 and the resulting influx of people. However, it does contain endangered Asian elephants which occupy a small area to the north of the reserve and probably range to the north east of the reserve. Tapir and sun bear are also present in the same areas. Much of Bentayan is already cleared and, in many cases, planted and settled, making solutions much harder to find. Threats were more or less constantly high throughout the reserve except for the small area where wildlife concentrations were highest. Bentayan may well represent what Dangku will look like in a few short years.
Potential for human-wildlife conflict is high in both reserves, with much evidence of crop raiding and even damage to buildings by elephants in Bentayan and two human deaths in Dangku shortly after the survey. Encounters with people and wildlife were frequently at the same points in both reserves, both on camera trap films and on foot transects.
The key recommendations following the report are to take swift action in both reserves to counter the various threats recorded. In Dangku, pioneer threats can still be prevented from leading to permanent settlements. In Bentayan, the remaining habitat used by all wildlife needs to be secured as soon as possible. Action should be conducted within a larger framework, both looking at conservation in the landscape as a whole (neither Bentayan nor Dangku is large enough to support sustainable large mammal populations on their own) and conducting a range of activities to support protection measures, including setting up monitoring programmes and working with landscape stakeholders.