Thu, 29 May 2003

Poaching of rare species plagues national park

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Flora & Fauna International (FFI) and the Team for the Conservation of Sumatran Tigers (TPHS) have received reports on the unchecked poaching of Sumatran elephants and other protected species in Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) in Jambi.

According to the reports, local people have recovered four dead elephants with their tusks missing in several areas of the park in the regencies of Merangin and Kerinci.

Deborah J. Martyr, a researcher with FFI's Indonesia program who accompanied the TPHS on a patrol through the national park in March, said the TPHS along with several FFI researchers received many reports from locals that a group of poachers had been hunting numerous protected species in the park for months.

While patrolling elephant habitats in Gunung Nilo, Ulu Sipurak, Ulu Sula, Air Sumpen and Muara Imat, the team recovered the carcass of an elephant in Ulu Sipurak. It was suspected the protected animal was killed in February.

Local people informed the team that the elephant was shot and killed by a group of poachers who came in through the northern part of the park in Kerinci regency.

Deborah said that while on patrol, they also heard several gunshots in the elephant habitat area, but the team failed to nab the poachers.

Poachers have so far hunted and killed elephants, Sumatran tigers and deer.

"We also received information from a fisherman in Ulu Sula that he had just discovered the carcass of an elephant at the national park that was also missing its tusks. Local people refused to identify the poachers, fearing for their own safety," Antara quoted her as saying on Wednesday in Beringin.

FFI has sent a team of several researchers to help Indonesia monitor the population of rare species and a midget tribal group, locally called orang pendek or short men, in the protected forests.

Local people also reported finding two more elephant carcasses missing their tusks in other parts of the national park. It is thought the two were killed in March.

Deborah said that, according to the reports, a group of eight poachers equipped with rifles and traps were still poaching protected species in Muara Air Sumpen and Batang Merangin.

She believes that the poachers are professional hunters, and local people say they were hired by a resident of Jambi city and had been hunting in the park for several years.

The TPHS also conducted a special patrol in 2001 following the discovery of four elephant carcasses missing their tusks in the park.

Over the last two years, a motion-automated camera placed by FFI in the national park has detected three major herds of elephants, each with around ten members, and several smaller herds with between three to five members each.

Besides Kerinci national park, the protected species is also found in Aceh, West Sumatra and Lampung.