In Search of the Sumatran Tiger

Camera trapping in South Sumatra

Isau Isau Nature Reserve a treasure trove of Sumatran Biodiversity Photo: © Pungky Nanda Pratama

Sumatra has lost almost 50% of its tropical rainforest in the last 35 years. Agriculture and mining are the most significant contributors to deforestation, both on the mainland and on the smaller islands. Many species of fauna and flora have been pushed to the brink of the extinction including the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, Sumatran elephant, Sumatran rhino, Sumatran orangutan, Sun bear, Clouded leopard, Pangolin and many more. Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade are adding to the problem.

By Pungky Nanda Pratama

The Sumatra Camera Trap Project started as a conversation between Pungky Nanda Pratama of the Jungle Library Project and Anthony Hearn. Both wanting to do more to preserve wildlife and wildlife habitat in South Sumatra.

Anthony sent the first camera to Pungky in early March 2018 and on April 4th, the first trap was deployed inside of Isau Isau Nature Reserve. The Isau Isau Nature Reserve was chosen as the first site because it is recognized as one of the biggest nature reserves in South Sumatra, with an area totaling 16,742,92 hectares. Almost completely covered with lowland tropical rainforest, the reserve protects the rich biodiversity of the area as well as its water resources. Research projects, tropical study areas, carbon stores, and ecotourism have also been set up to aid the conservation here. Unfortunately the area is under serious threat from the illegal wildlife trade and illegal logging. Any evidence of untoward human activity captured on the camera traps will hopefully aid in people being prosecuted.

In partnership with the Nature and Biodiversity Agency of South Sumatra Region II as well as staff and local people, the camera trap team was formed to protect some of these precious habitats. The hope is this project will aid in the transfer of knowledge and the involvement of indigenous people’s in this and other conservation efforts in South Sumatra.

Camera trap team including the Chief of Nature and Biodiversity Agency of South Sumatra Regional II (yellow), with Pungky Nanda Pratama (checked shirt), agency staff and local people.

The idea behind camera trapping is to showcase the vast array of elusive animal life that these unresearched nature reserves have to offer.

“We hope that with this project, we can find new populations of Critically Endangered Sumatran tigers, develop new integrated data of elusive species and raise awareness for the biodiversity of Sumatra both locally and globally,” says Pungky.

The project will run over a period of one year to ensure enough data is collected of all the species living inside the nature reserve in order make accurate estimations of animal populations and threats. The camera trap will be set up for a month in each chosen sampling area before being moved to a new location. The sites are selected based on clues left by animals such as footprints, scent marking, claw marks, pugmarks, scrapes, and scat deposits.

(Left — Right) Pungky setting up the camera trap. (Right) Evidence of wildlife activity in the area, a Sun Bear scratch marks.

Six fauna targets include the Sumatran tiger ( Panthera tigris Sumatra ), Malayan tapir ( Tapirus indicus ), Sun bear ( Helarctos malayanus ), Sumatran serow ( Capricornis sumatraensis ), Sunda Clouded Leopard ( Neofelis diardi ) and Northern Dhole ( Cuon alpinus ).

“Our goal is to capture photo or video evidence of the top six targeted species living in Isau Isau Nature Reserve as well as other elusive species. We hope this will help us understand the threats facing animal populations so that we can preserve these magnificent species for generations to come.”

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