‘Rampant conversion drives deadly human-tiger conflict’

EoF News / 08 January 2018
Map of PT THIP courtesy to Jikalahari

Death of a palm oil worker last week in concession belonging to Malaysian-based company, PT Tabung Haji Indo Plantations (PT THIP, under TH Plantations Berhad) in Pelangiran subdistrict, Riau, have voiced deep concerns on massive deforestation and threats of human-wildlife conflict.

“Sumatran tigers suffered miserably their habitat due to massive deforestation for plantations, therefore their movement to hunt preys and interact with other individials are hampered by human activities,” said Sunarto, a wildlife ecologist at WWF-Indonesia (8/1/2018).

Jumiati (33), a female worker of PT THIP, on 3 January was mauled to death after a tiger believed bit her thigh and neck when she  and two other female workers climbed palm oil trees to avoid the attack . Her two friends, Yusmawati (33) and Fitriyanti (40), survived from the mauling and evacuated by company’s workers. Jumiati is a resident of Batubara district, North Sumatra, and was buried in her village.

Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BBKSDA) Riau and stakeholders have been monitoring the movement of the tiger that mauled the worker to mitigate the conflict.

Forest converted

“Despite the area is palm oil plantation now, it has been natural forest which was tiger home range that converted rampantly,” Sunarto told EoF News.

I have been monitoring for long time and noting that there had been repeating incidents in the area,”added Sunarto. “This area is like corridor connecting two Sumatran tiger main habitats, Kerumutan and Kampar Peninsula forest blocks.”

WWF had conducted surveys in both Kerumutan and Kampar peat forest landscapes where the locals admitted that some of them had ran across with tigers.

Jikalahari published a press release on 6 January urging the Government to take stern measure against PT THIP by reviewing their environmental impact analysis document and environmental license.

The NGOs network also urged the Law Enforcement Directorate at Ministry of Environment and Forestry to probe the company as 2,101 out of 79,664 hectares situated at Permanent Production Forest status based on the Ministry decree number SK 903/Menlhk/Setjen/PLA.2/12/2016.

Findings by special committee on license evaluation of Riau Province Legislative Council (DPRD) said that THIP planted palm oil trees beyond concession granted by the Ministry of Forestry (7,075 hectares). The company was also alleged to control area beyond HGU license (5,914 hectares) and potentially caused the loss on tax revenues amount to IDR 354 billion per annum. THIP also allegedly damaged small rivers by planting the trees along watershed.

 According to Sunarto, Indonesia should promote implementation of Sumatran tiger population restoration in each tiger’s landscape as global movement initiated in Tiger Summit 2010 when Indonesia was one of participants.

“With such a vulnerable threat, we should not tolerate any conversion of tiger’s habitat and its poaching,” Sunarto said, “then immediately restore its habitats and corridors that have been degraded.

He added that recovery effort for Sumatran tiger population can be implemented in well-known methods.

Asked on what community and companies do to minimize the conflict, Sunarto said extra alertness was needed as the management and plantation workers should be prepared with tricks to avoid conflict against tigers.

Woro Supartinah, coordinator of Jikalahari, urged PT THIP to apologize for the casualty’s family and residents in Kerumutan landscape as the conflict started from a long time ago as a tiger strayed in the village found and filmed by an amateur netizen in May 2017.

“There is no regret and apology uttered by PT THIP to the casualty’s family as well as people living in Kerumutan landscape who still feared they can be victims too,” Woro said at a press release.