Indonesia Failing to Halt Sumatra Tiger Decline: Group

Sumatra Tiger

JAKARTA ~ Indonesia has failed to stop poaching of endangered Sumatran tigers, with body parts of the big cats for sale at retail outlets on the island they call home, a wildlife group warned this week.

Despite a national law against trade in tiger parts, a survey across 28 towns on Sumatra in 2006 found tiger teeth, claws, skin, whiskers and bones openly for sale, wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC said in a new report.

The survey estimated that at least 23 tigers were killed to supply the products seen in 10 percent of 326 retail outlets, which included goldsmiths, souvenir and traditional Chinese medicine shops, the British-based group said.

That number was lower than an estimate of 52 tigers killed per year in 1999-2000, Julia Ng, the report’s lead author, said in a statement on the report, but added that this was not a positive development.

“Sadly, the decline in availability appears to be due to the dwindling number of tigers left in the wild,” she said.

Authorities in the northern Sumatran cities of Medan and Pacur Batu, two main hubs for tiger trading, appeared to have not taken action against illegal traders despite TRAFFIC supplying their details, the group said.

“Successive surveys continue to show that Sumatran tigers are being sold body part by body part into extinction,” said the director of WWF International’s species programme, Susan Lieberman.

TRAFFIC is a joint programme of the WWF and the World Conservation Union.

“This is an enforcement crisis. If Indonesian authorities need enforcement help from the international community they should ask for it. If not, they should demonstrate they are taking enforcement seriously,” Lieberman said.

The Sumatran tiger population is estimated at around 400 to 500. Poaching as well as deforestation to make way for pulp, paper and palm oil plantations are the main factors behind the animal’s decline.

“It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that the Sumatran tiger will disappear like the Javan and Bali tigers if the poaching and trade continues,” TRAFFIC’s Ng added.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched a 10-year conservation strategy for the Sumatran tiger last December.

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