It’s not often we can share good news of the world’s remaining wild tigers. This week Panthera, a global big cat conservation organization, said a preliminary survey it helped organize had discovered an unexpected density of wild tigers in the southern section of Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation (TWNC), a privately managed concession on Indonesia’s Sumatra island.
Camera traps uncovered the burgeoning tiger stronghold on an island that typically makes headlines for its rampant loss of forests and wildlife, Panthera said in a statement about the findings.
Beacon of Hope
Initial data suggest a density of six tigers per 100 square kilometers (about 40 square miles), nearly double the highest recorded for the island to date, Panthera explained. “These findings, including camera trap images of tiger cubs like that above, have identified Tambling, which is part of the globally significant Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, as a beacon of hope for the last remaining 400-500 wild Sumatran tigers,” the charity said.
Tomy Winata, an Indonesian businessman, conservationist and founder of the 170-square-mile (450-square-kilometer) Tambling sanctuary, has led critical tiger conservation initiatives in the region since 1996, and recently partnered with Panthera to implement the camera trap survey.
Simply put, the main threat to tigers across their range is from poaching. Poaching is not a disease we can’t see or a threat we can’t identify. It can be beaten if the will is there to do so.
Said Panthera’s CEO and tiger scientist, Alan Rabinowitz: “The extraordinary tiger densities that have been discovered in Tambling are the tangible result of Mr. Tomy Winata’s program not just to provide tigers sanctuary, but to protect them. Simply put, the main threat to tigers across their range is from poaching. Poaching is not a disease we can’t see or a threat we can’t identify. It can be beaten if the will is there to do so. Armed with a zero tolerance policy towards poaching, Mr. Tomy Winata and his team have successfully secured a significant area utilizing effective enforcement. This fact, coupled with good science and monitoring, has had the desired results; tigers are now breeding. Tambling is a model tiger conservation site that is giving the Sumatran subspecies a real chance not just to recover…but to thrive.”
Prior to TWNC’s efforts, Tambling’s tigers were subjected to high levels of poaching and habitat loss, Panthera said in its statement. “However, Mr. Tomy Winata’s use of law enforcement patrols carrying out strict protection efforts, and maintenance of lowland tiger habitat and prey populations, has allowed Tambling to emerge as a key site for tigers in Sumatra and across their range. TWNC’s initiatives have also benefited Tambling’s local fishing community, which Mr. Tomy Winata has supported by providing villagers with employment opportunities, contributions to the community health clinic and school, student scholarships and more.”
Restoring Mother Nature
“I am doing all this because it is my belief that nature has provided us with everything we need to survive and live in this world, and yet so many people have taken from her for their own benefit without giving anything back in return. So I hope that my efforts in wildlife conservation and forest and ecosystem sustainability can be a role model for others, so that together we can help save Mother Nature and never forget where we came from,” Winata said in the Panthera news release.
Panthera’s wild cat scientist and post-doctoral fellow, Robert Pickles, is working with the TWNC team to extend the population density analysis to the northern region of TWNC and implement extensive habitat analyses to determine the vitality of Tambling’s ecosystem. Pathera said. “Expanding the reach and efficacy of the Tambling tiger conservation project, the field teams will soon implement a new monitoring software known as SMART to track evidence of illegal activities and better evaluate and target law enforcement efforts. Additional activities include assisting local authorities with park boundary delineations and determining additional threats and their solutions, besides poaching, to tigers, their prey, and their habitat.”
David Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.
He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.
Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship.