Tiger in University Research Complex raises questions on human-wildlife conflicts

Massive forest loss has triggered wildlife-human conflicts, meaning the number of wild animals' prey has decreased

A Sumatran tiger has been roaming for the past six days in a research area at the University of Sriwijaya's Indralaya Campus, Ogan Ilir Regency, South Sumatera, prompting an urgent call for solving human-wildlife conflicts.

Head of Indralaya Campus' Research Center, M Umar Harun, confirmed previous reports from a student and a rubber tree tapper who had spotted the wild animal in two separate days. Harun received the first report on January 4 from a student who was researching a palm oil plantation. The student admitted hearing a roar but did not see where the sound came from as the student escaped.

The second report came on January 7 when a rubber tapper saw an animal as big as a calf with stripes. However, as the tapper spotted from a considerable distance and before sunset, it was unclear whether it was a tiger or not.

The Main Causes of Human-Wildlife Clash

Sumatran Tiger
Sumatran Tiger, SCIENTIFIC NAME: Panthera tigris sumatrae (Critically Endangered) Reuters

From 2008 to 2018, there were1,069 human-tiger conflicts recorded and 130 tigers leaving their habitats. The Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Agam Resort in West Sumatera handled 11 cases of wildlife-human disputes throughout 2019, as Antara reported.

"Those cases consist of the people-sun bear (3 cases), people with Sumatran tiger (3 cases), and people with crocodile (5 cases), said BKSDA Agam Forest Ecosystem Controller, Ade Putra told Antara on Wednesday (January 7).

Forest loss due to massive development projects and palm oil industry and animal poaching have triggered human-wildlife conflicts. The decrease in the number of tigers' prey, such as deers and wild boars due to hunting, has forced tigers to eat residents' cattle such as cows and goats.

Such a condition affects the tigers' territory and roaming ability. A tiger occupies territories range between 15 and 20 square kilometres and can roam 236 square kilometres to find its prey, take a break, seek protections, and do other activities.

Chief of BKSDA Riau office, Suharyono, said that most of the people and wild animals conflicts occurred outside the conservation area, meaning that the majority of the clashes involving people and wild animals happen in a concession area.

"Only 20 percent of the clashes happened in conservation areas. Wild animals leave their habitats as they cannot find something to eat. They eat plants around the industrial forest," Suharyono stated in a discussion on climate change in 2018 as Media Indonesia quoted.

What's the solution?

The efforts to protect endangered animals and preserve a conservation area must not sacrifice the safety of local people. Therefore, organized coordination involving all related stakeholders is vital to guarantee the interests of both people and wild animals.

The establishment of a task force aimed at mitigating incidents could be one of the solutions for those living near conservation areas. Sixty regions are bordering the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Lampung Province. Still, only five of them that have set up a task force, as Siti Muksidah from the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park said.