A suspected tiger smuggler was arrested with the skin of an adult male tiger believed to have been poisoned inside or near a wildlife reserve in Sumatra’s Riau Province on March 3, 2011. The discovery was made following an undercover operation led by the Natural Resource Conservation Agency in Riau and West Sumatra Province (BKSDA) with support from WWF-Indonesia’s Tiger Protection Unit.
“Our goal was not only to help the government arrest the local poacher, but to see if we could track the tiger carcass to someone higher up in the smuggling network,” said Chairul Saleh, Wildlife Conservation Specialist with WWF-Indonesia. “We need to break the smuggling networks that are decimating our Sumatran tiger population, so we have to go as high up the ladder as possible.”
Steps involved in the smuggling operation
The BKSDA and WWF team followed a courier to the border area between Riau and West Sumatra provinces where the tiger skin was handed over to the suspect. BKSDA West Sumatra was then called to join the operation. During a raid of the suspect’s house, a WWF Tiger Patrol Unit member detected the smell of chemicals often used to preserve tiger skins and was then able to locate the skin. The tiger’s bones, which are highly valued on the black market for their supposed medicinal value, were not recovered. The suspect is being held at the Payakumbuh Police Station in West Sumatra.
“We believe the suspect has a wide international wildlife trade network in Sumatra; therefore we expect law enforcement in this case can be done as soon as possible,” said Kurnia Rauf, Head of BKSDA Riau. “We’re ready to help provide necessary data to help the judicial process of this case, hoping that the maximum sentence can be enforced to create a deterrent effect to other poachers.”
Smuggler arrest important to stop poaching
“The BKSDA teams in Riau and in West Sumatra deserve much credit for running a highly professional operation that resulted in the arrest of the suspect without incident on March 3,” said Suhandri, leader of WWF-Indonesia’s Program in Riau. “WWF strongly urges law enforcment agencies in West Sumatra to take this case seriously and to seek the maximum penalty to deter this poacher and others. Sumatran tigers are critically endangered and poaching is one of the top threats to their survival.”
The arrest comes as Indonesia and the 12 other nations that still have wild tigers embark on building the Global Tiger Recovery Program, an initiative launched at the International Tiger Conservation Forum in Russia in November 2010 that seeks to double the number of tigers within the next 12 years.