Wildlife poacher arrested in Sumatra ‘was set to sell tiger carcass’

This article has been updated with details of conviction and sentencing.

A wildlife poacher who was in possession of a tiger carcass has been arrested in North Sumatra in Indonesia.

An anti-trafficking team made up of officials from the Gunung Leuser National Park (GNLP) and the Orangutan Information Centre’s Forest Wildlife Protection Unit (ForWPU) caught the poacher yesterday (Sunday) in the Cinta Raja area of the park, in the Langkat district. The authorities said he was apprehended after attempting to conduct a transaction with an undercover park ranger.

The poacher was in possession of the carcass of a female Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), said by the GNLP officials to have been about three years old. The poacher said the animal was 13 years old.

The director of the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), Panut Hadisiswoyo, said he was extremely shocked that a poacher had been caught in possession of a tiger carcass.

Hadisiswoyo said poachers had been caught in North Sumatra in the past with tiger skins, but this was the first time one was arrested in possession of a tiger carcass.

“This is bitter-sweet,” he added. “On the one hand, the loss of this tiger is a serious threat for the animals’ survival, especially if we fail to protect the remaining population. This female tiger is important for the genetic tiger pool in the Leuser Ecosystem.

“But, on the other hand, the arrest is a real milestone for implementing law enforcement and thus preventing more illegal trafficking of this protected species.”

The poacher said he wanted to sell the carcass for 10 million rupiah (about 750 US dollars), Hadisiswoyo added. “Traffickers sell animal carcasses to wildlife galleries or they sell animal parts to traders.

“And there are people who want to display dead tigers like trophies in their homes.”

The number of Sumatran tigers in the GLNP has been decreasing significantly and there are only about one hundred of them left in the Leuser Ecosystem.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the animal as critically endangered.

The Leuser Ecosystem is an area of tropical lowland rainforest that straddles the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra and is the last place on Earth where tigers, orangutans, rhinos, and elephants can be found living together in the wild.

Photo © Paul Hilton/Greenpeace.

The IUCN has identified Leuser as one of the world’s “irreplaceable protected areas”. It is home to the densest populations of orangutans anywhere in the world, and plays an important role in mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration.

Teams conducting monitoring in southeast Aceh have identified six tigers living in the area.

The head of the GNLP, Misran, who goes by only one name, said the poacher was arrested in the hamlet of Sumber Waras, Sei Serdang village, in the Batang Serangan sub-district.

Misran said the man had been caught thanks to information from members of the public. He has been named simply as having the initials IS, alias M, and is reported to be a security guard for an oil palm company.

Misran said the trapping technique used by the poacher was new and left the carcass virtually free of bruises.

“There were only a few snare marks on the animal’s belly. The poacher would have been able to make a fortune selling the carcass.

“The hooks and cotton slings are suspended until the tiger fully enters the trap and is entangled. The poacher had installed about two hundred snares to increase his chances of catching a tiger.”

Misran called on local people to help GLNP officials to combat tiger trafficking.

The IUCN says the decline in the Sumatran tiger population is being caused by high rates of habitat loss and fragmentation, even inside areas that are supposed to be protected.

“There are high levels of human-tiger conflict as well as illegal trade in tiger parts. From 1998-2002 at least 51 tigers per year were killed, with 76 percent for purposes of trade and 15 percent out of human-tiger conflict.”

In an investigation in 2017, the parts of at least 23 tigers had been found for sale in markets around the island, the IUCN says.

The Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia Programme says that the volume of illegal wildlife trade has quadrupled since 2010 and now has a value of 13 trillion rupiah per year.

Convicted wildlife poachers and traffickers face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of 100 million rupiah, but much more lenient sentences have been imposed.

It has been reported that offenders have mostly been sentenced to nine months in jail and have been fined 10 million rupiah.

Conservationists estimate that there are now only about three hundred Sumatran tigers living in the wild. The Bali tiger and the Javan subspecies are both already extinct.


Article updated on 29/8/2017

Further update on 10/1/2018:

On January 4, the poacher, Ismail Sembiring, was convicted and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 100 million rupiah (about US$7,443) or serve an additional three months in prison.

Sembiring was found guilty of trading in endangered wildlife in violation of the 1990 Act Concerning Conservation of Living Resources and their Ecosystems.


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