May 9, 2011

WWF Says Rare Tigers Need Protection From Loggers

Concealed cameras in the Bukit Tigapuluh forest recorded images of 12 rare tigers, prompting the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a conservation charity, to put pressure on the Indonesian government to stop loggers from clearing it.

Currently, there are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the world, with a total global tiger population reaching to just 1,300, according to WWF, which is down from 100,000 tigers a century ago.

Spotting tigers in the wild is extremely rare, and capturing a Sumatran tiger on film is even rarer since they are threatened with extinction.

"Our team was thrilled to discover 47 tiger images in our camera traps, from which we identified six unique individuals," says Karmila Parakkasi, who leads WWF's tiger research team in Sumatra. "That was the highest number of tigers and tiger images obtained in the first month of sampling we've ever experienced. And then the results from the second month were even more impressive"”not just one tiger family but two, with another six tigers."

Parakkasi is not sure why the team was able to capture so many tigers on film, but many environmentalists believe that they are increasing coming into contact with people due to the fact that their natural habitat is being lost through deforestation for timber and palm oil plantations.

"What's unclear is whether we found so many tigers because we're getting better at locating our cameras or because the tiger's habitat is shrinking so rapidly here that they are being forced into sharing smaller and smaller bits of forests," she says.

At last year's Tiger Summit in Russia, the Indonesian government designated Bukit Tigapuluh as one of six tiger conservation areas, and has committed to its national tiger recovery plan.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has received pressure from environmentalists to implement a two-year moratorium, due to start January 1, on the clearing of natural forest and peatland, as promised.

WWF spokesperson Desmarita Murni told AFP, "This is one of Indonesian government commitments in its national tiger recovery plan they pledged during the summit of world leaders in Russia."

"They have to ensure that its commitment is well implemented."

Norway has pledged to contribute up to $1 billion, as part of the moratorium, to help with the preservation of Indonesia's forests.

WWF's forest and species program director Anwar Purwoto says, "This video confirms the extreme importance of these forests in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem and its wildlife corridor."

"WWF calls for all concessions operating in this area to abandon plans to clear this forest and protect areas with high conservation value.

"We also urge the local, provincial and central government to take into consideration the importance of this corridor and manage it as part of Indonesia's commitments to protecting biodiversity," he says.

Last year the WWF warned that the species is on a course for extinction by 2022.

AFP reports that fragile tiger populations can be found in thirteen countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

So far, Russia is the only country where the tiger population is on the rise. Recent years the number has risen to 500 from 100 in the 1960s. This raises hope that these animals can be saved if efforts are taken to protect them.


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