14 Desember 2006

Hollywood starlets have nothing on a camera-averse young tiger in Riau
Central Sumatra that recently went on a 10-day spree of destruction
that left three of WWF’s camera traps in pieces in the jungle. In each
case, the film inside was spared and revealed that the same culprit was
responsible for all three incidents.

glimpse of the tiger responsible for destroying the WWF camera traps in
Sumatra’s Kerumutan Wildlife Reserve. © WWF-Indonesia/ Tesso Nilo
program, 2006

Infrared-triggered camera traps take photos of animals moving past that
trigger their temperature-sensitive sensors and are used to gather
photographs of wildlife and identify tigers in an area. In less than 10
days, a far-ranging tiger attacked and destroyed three of the cameras
WWF had stationed in the jungle 12 kilometers apart as the crow flies.

“Fortunately, the photographic evidence survived,” said Sunarto,
lead tiger researcher for WWF in the central Sumatran province of Riau,
Indonesia. “We developed the film and were able to identify the same
individual in each case – a young tiger that clearly doesn’t like
having his picture taken. The flash from the camera apparently set him
off each time he passed by a camera and he walked over to it and ripped
it to pieces with his teeth.”

photographic evidence survived, showing the same individual of tiger
responsible for destroying the camera. © WWF-Indonesia/ Tesso Nilo
program, 2006

Each tiger’s stripe pattern is unique, so photos from camera traps
allow WWF scientists to identify individuals in the jungle and help
determine an accurate population estimate. The film in all three
incidents revealed a tiger with the same stripe pattern.

“We’ve had camera traps destroyed before by tigers and other
wildlife and we’ve had camera traps stolen by illegal loggers and
poachers,” Sunarto said. “But this is the first time we’ve been able to
identify a culprit. Subadult tigers are highly curious and adventurous.
I’ve warned our team to be careful working in this area with such a
tiger around.”

The series of attacks took place in the Tesso Nilo-Bukit Tigapuluh
Conservation Landscape, inside the Kerumutan Wildlife Reserve, which is
surrounded by land about to be cleared by pulp and paper companies.
Conducting research in the remote area is difficult and WWF’s tiger
teams spent weeks trekking deep into the interior of the reserve to set
up the camera traps.

One of three camera traps destroyed by the tiger. © WWF-Indonesia/Tesso Nilo Program, 2006

“In our interviews with communities and local authorities, only a few
people said they had ever seen signs of tigers in Kerumutan,” said
Cobar Hutajulu, a member of WWF’s tiger team in Riau. “But these photos
are evidence of healthy tigers in the area. Unfortunately, we also
found a lot of evidence of illegal logging in the area.”

Central Sumatra’s tiger and elephant habitat has declined
drastically in the past two decades, with many animals now isolated
from each other in small pockets of forest. WWF is working to stop
further clearing of natural forest in the area and to reconnect
isolated fragments of habitat via wooded wildlife corridors.

There are estimated to be fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.

** By Nur Anam, Tiger Communications Officer, WWF-Indonesia