Wildlife Crime and Detection in Berbak-Sembilang Tiger Conservation Landscape
Poaching of tigers and their prey, as well as being killed in response to conflicts, are the
two major causes of Sumatran tiger deaths at human hands. To address these and other key threats to tigers, including illegal trade, ZSL established two “Wildlife Conflict and Crime Response Teams” (WCCRTs). They are based around Berbak and Sembilang National Parks, which together form a single Tiger Conservation Landscape (TCL). These multi-stakeholder groups involve members of the Forest police from the Provincial and District Forestry departments as well as from Berbak National Park and Sembilang National Park.
Anti Poaching Activities
The WCCRTs and ZSL field teams carry out patrols around the national parks’ borders to ensure they are protected. They also work closely with communities to reduce the likelihood of any conflict situations between tigers and the villagers that live around the TCL. The WCCRTs and ZSL support national park staff to undertake snare sweeping surveys in both protected areas to clear snares set for deer, pigs and potentially tigers from the forests where in most parts hunting is illegal.
Tiger caught in snare
The frequency of these snare sweeps was increased in the last 12 months, after ZSL’s field team made the horrific discovery during a routine camera trapping exercise of intact remains of a tiger that had been caught, trapped and died in a snare. A subsequent four-day sweep of the area discovered 15 snares, mostly in close proximity to the river as the forest is difficult to move around in and tigers like to remain close to water as they move through the forest.
Additional snares sweeps along with more frequent and focused patrolling efforts are now being developed and coordinated between ZSL/WCCRTs and the National Parks.
Both WCCRTs have been trained in collecting evidence while patrolling on the effectiveness of law enforcement and will receive training in the new SMART software in the near future. SMART is a tool for measuring, evaluating and improving the effectiveness of wildlife law enforcement patrols and site-based conservation activities and is being developed for use around the world by a collection of NGOs including ZSL.
Conflict Resolution Activity
The WCCRTs have attended eight tiger human conflict, tiger protection and potential crime incidences in the last year, three of which resulted in tigers including two tiger cubs being rescued and a tigress being found in a snare, treated and released.
Tiger captures for conflict resolution The most dramatic new and emerging direct threat to tigers since 2011 has been the discovery of deadly high voltage electric fences. A large male tiger known to ZSL through camera trap images was electrocuted on the edge of the park by a high-voltage electric fence set up to protect community-owned agricultural farms from deer and pigs.
Steps are now being taken to replace these fences with safer alternatives. The WCCRTs worked alongside the community, senior villagers and district members to draft a local district level regulation to ban the use of these high voltage deadly fences. The WCCRTs have also set up tiger-friendly (i.e. not fatal) electric fences in three villages for testing, hoping to provide clear evidence to communities that these fences work, deterring pests such as wild pigs while posing no threat of death to tigers, or indeed humans.
Global Positioning System (GPS) Collaring Study
Permission has been obtained from the Ministry of Forestry for wild tigers to be fitted with GPS collars and tracked. This provides vital information on tiger movements and habitat use in the region. Three GPS tiger collars are now ready for attachment and tiger monitoring has been put in place at suitable sites to establish the best locations for tiger captures. Local Forestry Department-approved veterinarians have been trained to assist with the capture, sedation, health check and release of animals.