Dangku Tiger Conservation Partnership
The Dangku Tiger Conservation Partnership (DTCP) focuses on a region of South Sumatra that represents the plight of the island as a whole. The area is dominated by several large concessions for palm oil, forestry and oil and gas. But scattered across the landscape also lie several small conservation areas. Among these conservation islands, or fragments, live some of the world’s last Sumatran tigers.
All of these habitat fragments lack significant protection and, on their own, none of them is large enough to support a viable tiger population.
The future of the tigers therefore depends on increased protection of these core habitats and connectivity through the industrial landscape surrounding them.
The DTCP aims to unite companies working in this area, since they are the key to the Dangku tigers’ future, and work together with them to ensure that economic activities can continue while also safeguarding the tiger and Sumatra’s rich biodiversity.
Sumatra’s biodiversity is held primarily in its forests and is essential for maintaining the environmental health on which people depend. In the last half century, rapid economic development has meant that much of the forest has disappeared, leaving a landscape dominated by industry, agriculture and people with a fragmented protected area system struggling to conserve the island’s remaining biodiversity.
However, development and conservation are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Sumatran biodiversity can be conserved by a core of protected areas if it is supported by a network of eco-intelligent entrepreneurs working in partnership.
Human- Wildlife conflict
Sumatra is part of the Sundaland hotspot, one of the richest biodiversity centres in the world. But the island also represents one of the areas where biodiversity is most at risk, with vast habitat clearance and land conversion driving massive species declines.
Fifty years ago Sumatra was largely covered in tropical forests abounding with biodiversity, interspersed with pockets of human activity. Now the situation has reversed, with remaining forest fragments left as islands in a sea of human expansion.
Protected areas are the last strongholds for biodiversity, accounting for some 12% of the land surface. However they are highly fragmented and many lack the resources required to be effectively managed.
The Dangku region of South Sumatra represents a microcosm of much of the rest of the island. Covering some 65,000 kilometres, it is dominated by industry interspersed with settlements. Dotted across the human-dominated landscapes are a number of small conservation islands under a variety of limited protection regimes.
Whilst heavily threatened, ZSL research has shown that at least some of these islands still contain significant biodiversity value, including the critically endangered Sumatran tiger.
Working with industries for change
Satellite imagery has shown that some degree of forest connectivity remains between all of the conservation areas in the Dangku landscape - it is probably for this reason that the larger species, such as tigers, persist.
But connectivity disappears day by day as more forest is cleared for crops, bisected by roads and settled by local communities. This process is happening both inside and outside the conservation areas; if it continues unchecked, the landscape will lose much of its biodiversity heritage as well as its biological capacity to cope with change.
Economic development does not have to come at the price of environmental destruction. Industrial practices can be adapted to some degree to reduce impacts; it is often simply the case that incentives to do so are absent.
Intelligent placement of new concessions can be achieved through siting them on degraded, low value land rather than forested areas - thus avoiding further deforestation. Leaving corridors of untouched habitat across plantations could make the difference between irrecoverable isolation and survival for tiger population fragments.
Companies that dominate such landscapes have the potential to exert major, detrimental impacts on their local environment. Conversely, they also have the potential to mitigate much of this damage, particularly if working together. Making the decision to do so could mean the difference between a future landscape devoid of its past biodiversity or one that is biologically intact and a model for the rest of Sumatra.
ZSL has been conducting tiger-focused wildlife surveys in Sumatra since 2004 and was part of the team that developed a set method for surveying for tiger presence across the island.
Surveys in Dangku will follow the same methods, using a mixture of foot transects to search for wildlife signs and camera traps to take direct photographs of individual animals in order to produce a map of wildlife diversity and distribution.
At the same time, ZSL is working with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) to develop a cost effective but scientifically robust biodiversity survey method for surveying oil palm biodiversity that is compatible with High Conservation Value surveys. The Dangku surveys will contribute to the development of this method.
ZSL is negotiating an MoU with the Department of Forestry to cover all activities in Indonesia. The South Sumatra Wildlife and Conservation office (BKSDA) was a partner for the original surveys in Dangku Reserve and remains a key collaborator for the Dangku Tiger Conservation Partnership