Photo: Forum Konservasi Leuser
A cameraman shooting a Planet Experts documentary in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem spent two days hiking through the jungle with rangers last week in a dangerous effort to reach a rare, Sumatran tiger snared in a poacher’s trap.
Nanang Sujana, of the Indonesia Nature Film Society, was embedded with a team of rangers from the Indonesian NGO Forum Konservasi Leuser (FKL). The rangers routinely head out on fifteen-day hikes to remove snares from the jungle in Samarkilang, Central, Aceh — the heart of the Leuser Ecosystem. Sujana was hoping to film a rescue attempt after another FKL patrol first spotted the trapped tiger, then called for reinforcements to help with the release.
“On the third day of our trip to patrol in the jungle, we found one tiger is still there, hit by a noose in front of the left leg,” an FKL ranger named Asra said. “My estimate of the tiger is already three days entangled, his body is becoming thin from not eating.”
The patrol captured the below image of the extraordinary cat before fleeing the area and waiting for help to arrive.
“After seeing the tiger in the trap, we immediately went away for the safety of ourselves, because other tigers guard the area,” Asra said.
Meanwhile, Sujana marched with rangers across treacherous terrain under constant threat of attack by wild tigers. The team trekked a full two days in an attempt to reach the tiger caught in the trap. But before Sujana and the rescue team could arrive, the trapped tiger seemingly managed to free itself thanks to the protection provided by the FKL patrols.
“As we were hiking up through very difficult conditions, I witnessed the fear in the eyes of the other rangers, who had entered our camp after ten hours of trekking through very dangerous tiger territory in the middle of the night from the area to communicate to us that the tiger had managed to escape from the trap,” Sujana said.
There are reports from the rangers that up to three tigers had been caught in snares, with two escaping before photographic evidence was captured. In all, nine traps were removed, though hundreds more are believed to be in the area, a hotbed of tiger poaching.
Genman S. Hasibuan, head of Aceh BKSDA (Office of Conservation and Natural Resources), said in a press release that his team believes the escaped tiger eluded poachers, and that tiger fur was indeed recovered from the trap.
Sumatran Tigers — which have narrower stripes than other tigers to help them blend into Indonesia’s tall grasses — are critically endangered, with as few as 400 remaining, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Poaching is largely fueled by the demand for tiger parts in alternative medicine. Habitat destruction, especially deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations, is also pushing this big cat to the brink of extinction.
Visual evidence of a trapped Sumatran tiger is very rare, as there are few members of the species left, and when they do get caught in traps, it’s usually the poachers who reach them first.
Still, the FKL rangers are fighting every day to win the war against the poachers by protecting this rare and precious species from extinction.
Check out FKL’s Facebook page if you’d like to help them protect more tigers and put an end to poaching in Indonesia.
Planet Experts Founder & CEO David Gardner contributed to this report while on the ground in Indonesia.