Busted: Poachers Feel the Heat

September 9, 2008

The Wildlife Crime Units help intercept the trade in illegal tiger parts on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Ten arrests have been made in three months.

Time ran out to save the tigers themselves, but their parts—bones, skins, teeth, and claws—have been laid to rest, following a raid by Indonesian authorities working with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wildlife Crimes Unit. The tiger parts were most likely bound for souvenir shops and markets in China.

The raid, conducted by the Indonesian Department of Forestry, Directorate-General for Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA), took place in Sumatra on August 26 and resulted in four arrests. In recent months, Indonesian authorities stepped up efforts to control illegal wildlife trade, making ten such arrests in three months—the same number of arrests made in the previous three years. All cases are now being prosecuted.

WCS created the Wildlife Crimes Unit in 2003. The unit provides data and technical advice to law enforcement agencies to support the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes.

Other WCS projects are seeking to save tigers in Sumatra before they meet the same grisly fate.

“Tiger poaching and trade is a massive threat to the survival of this iconic animal,” said Dr Noviar Andayani, director of WCS-Indonesia. “The long-term survival of this species will require effective action to control illegal poaching, reduce habitat loss, and prevent conflict between tigers and local people.”

A steady demand for tiger parts fuels the trade, which exports tiger parts for souvenirs, talismans, and for use in traditional medicine. Tigers are also killed when they come into conflict with local farmers.

Dr. Andayani emphasized that on-the-ground action such as the raids in Indonesia is key to saving tigers. “In the areas of Sumatra where we have worked hardest and longest, we are starting to see indications that the tiger population is finally recovering,” he said.

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