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A Ranger Determined to Save Sumatra's Tigers

WWF's coordinator of Tiger Protection Units in Indonesia helps protect the last wild tigers in 30 Hills

Abeng profile

Abeng, coordinator of WWF’s Tiger Protection Units in Indonesia, has lived on the island of Sumatra his whole life. He leads our efforts to protect last wild tigers in Tesso Nilo-Bukit TigapuluhBukit Tigapuluh, or “30 Hills,” one of the last places on earth where elephants, tigers and orangutans coexist.

I’m old enough to remember when many tigers still roamed the forests, but young enough to know that if we don’t act now I could live long enough to see the last Sumatran tiger die from a poacher’s snare or bullet.

This is why I now devote myself to saving Sumatra’s tigers.

“We need a massive crackdown on poaching and trafficking if we are to save our wild tigers.”

Coordinator of WWF’s Tiger Protection Units in Indonesia

There may be fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left. Our camera traps have identified 47 in the Tesso Nilo–Bukit Tigapuluh landscape. And our Tiger Protection Units are fighting to save every one. Our small team of 10 patrols key habitats and collects data on illegal trade by identifying shops that sell tiger parts, investigating trafficking routes, and identifying the players involved in deadly wildlife crime. We share our data with local authorities and urge them to pursue the poachers and traffickers.

A memorable case was when we were working together with the local government authorities to track members of a smuggling ring in Sumatra. We were in the suspect’s house when one of my team literally followed his nose to where a tiger skin had been concealed, soaking in a strong smelling chemical often used to preserve skins. The tiger’s bones, which are highly valued on the black market for their supposed medicinal value, were not recovered.

Our enemies are determined and dangerous

One measure of my success as a ranger is that I am no longer free to chase the poachers as I once did. My face has become too familiar for me to continue operating undercover. Instead of catching traffickers myself, I help my patrol teams and monitor wildlife trade cases in court to ensure that the perpetrators get the maximum sentence.

In 2006, at the height of the poaching spree, we confiscated up to 70 snares in a month. By 2009, those numbers had dropped to a mere handful. But we know that in places where WWF is not yet working, the killing continues. Data from our WWF collaborators at TRAFFIC show that at least 66 Sumatran tigers have been killed in recent years, with more than half poached from protected areas such as national parks.

On the edge

Not so long ago, our neighboring islands of Java and Bali had their own tigers, too. But their forests were cleared for crops and timber, and their tigers were hunted relentlessly for their skins and teeth and bones. I believe their people are poorer for the loss.

I do not wish such a future for my island or for my family. We need a massive crackdown on poaching and trafficking if we are to save our wild tigers. Once believed to be eternal, they are now in danger of disappearing forever.

How you can help

Back A Ranger: As the only on-the-ground antipoaching group in the area, we face some limits—but we pride ourselves on our accomplishments. We need your help to achieve more. Please support our efforts and Back A Ranger. One hundred percent of your donation will provide vital support to men and women on the frontlines of battling wildlife crime.

Save 30 Hills: Every minute five football fields of rainforest in Sumatra is cleared for timber and replaced with pulpwood, rubber and oil palm plantations. As forests disappear, wildlife become increasingly vulnerable to humans, especially poachers. But there is a chance that we can save 30 Hills and the species we all love so much. Please sign and share this petition to help save 30 Hills.