Black Market Tigers Video
A Wildlife Crimes Unit coordinator talks about fighting a dangerous trade in Indonesia.
Karimunjawa: Indonesia Marine Program Video
Teeming with vibrant biodiversity, the undersea world of Indonesia's Javan coral reefs and coastal habitats are a critical landscape which WCS works to protect.
Indonesian Oil Palm Plantation Photo
An oil palm plantation–one of the major causes of deforestation in Indonesia–sits adjacent to Gunung Leuser National Park.
©P Clyne
Indonesia School Education Photo
Environmental education in Sumatra
©WCS Indonesia
Indonesia Wild Orangutan Photo
A wild orangutan in Sumatra.
©WCS Indonesia
Wildlife Crimes Unit Slideshow
Tigers are fast disappearing in the wild, due in large part to increasing illegal wildlife trade across Asia.  Our Wildlife Crimes Unit is working to support the arrest and prosecution of poachers and wildlife traders so that we can ensure a future for these cats in some of their last strongholds. Take a look at what WCS conservationists working throughout tiger territory have come across in their surveys and patrols.
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Police display confiscated tiger skin with other seized animal skins and body parts in Indonesia. The country is Southeast Asia’s largest exporter of wildlife, both legal and illegal.
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Many of the wildlife pelts and other items that are poached in Indonesia are part of complex trade chains, which often terminate in illegal markets in China.
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
The Wildlife Crimes Unit provides technical assistance to Indonesian police conducting anti-poaching raids.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
This tiger was caught in a snare in northern Sumatra, a hotspot for the big cats in Indonesia, and therefore a draw for poachers.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
In addition to tigers, tons of turtles are also exported from Indonesia on a weekly basis, and about 1.5 million wild-caught birds are sold in a market every year in Java.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Tiger bones in Sumatra are sold as souvenirs and talismans, and ground up or boiled down for use as ingredients in traditional medicines.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Tiger pelts are considered a status symbol by some and many wealthy people consume tiger products for purported medicinal qualities.
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
WCS conservationists in India calculate tiger numbers by setting up remote camera traps that photograph the big cats in the wild.
©Eleanor Briggs
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
The camera trap technique is also used in the Russian Far East, where this Siberian tiger was photographed.
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Tiger scat contains a unique DNA signature that gives researchers another way to accurately identify and count individual animals.
©S. Gopinth
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
In the protected areas of India’s Western Ghats region, where WCS has worked for over 20 years, tiger populations are holding steady.
©Ullas Karanth
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Help the Wildlife Conservation Society save tigers in the wild by making a donation.
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

The 17,000 islands that comprise the nation of Indonesia stretch more than 3,000 miles along the equator, bridging Asia and Australasia. The archipelago encompasses Sumatra, most of Borneo, Java, Bali, Sulawesi, the “spice islands” of Maluku, and half the island of New Guinea. Some of the islands, like Java and Bali, are densely populated, while others, like Papua, remain largely wilderness. Indonesia’s natural habitats vary widely. On some islands, tropical forests climb from steamy lowlands to mountain slopes. On others, parched savannah thrives. Coral reefs line thousands of tranquil atolls, while relentless waves batter rocky cliffs on other shores. In Papua, the mountains reach so high that permanent ice caps top their peaks, surrounded by barren alpine tundra.

The archipelago’s wide range of habitats are home to more than 1,600 species of birds—a staggering 17 percent of all bird species—including cockatoos, birds-of-paradise, hornbills, and mynas. More than 500 mammals—12 percent of the world’s mammal species—including the orangutan, rhino, tiger, and elephant, also live here. So do 1,000 species of amphibians, 2,000 species of reptiles, 8,000 species of fish, 25,000 species of flowering plants, and a mind-boggling 250,000 species of insects. Indonesia tops the global charts for “endemism”—or the number of species found here and nowhere else.

With more than 240 million people, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country on Earth. With so much wildlife and so many people sharing the same space, conflicts over resources are inevitable. To date only one species is thought to have become extinct in Indonesia (the mysterious Javan lapwing), but many more are endangered. Some of these vulnerable species live only one or two small islands.

Fast Facts

  • Indonesia crawls with almost a third of all the world insect species!
  • More than one-third of the nation’s 1,600 bird species are found nowhere else.
  • Indonesia’s network of protected areas covers an area the size of Texas, or Germany.
  • You can walk for weeks in some Indonesian forests without ever coming near the edge!
  • Indonesia is very culturally diverse. Its people collectively speak more than 400 different languages.
  • 11,000 of Indonesia’s islands have no permanent human presence at all.


© Philadelphia Zoo 
With a growing population and a developing economy, Indonesians are working carefully to balance the needs of their nation’s people with the protection of their natural heritage. The country has a vast network of national parks and nature reserves, which span about 125 square miles. However, the network spreads across many far-flung islands, and the few thousand staff of the Forestry Department are responsible for managing it all. As a result, resources are stretched to the limit. Additionally, despite the breadth of the protected areas, much of Indonesia’s wildlife live outside these reserves, where logging, plantations, and expanding farmland threaten them. Only through working with local communities and governments, as well as the commercial companies that operate here, can we hope to protect the wildlife in these areas.

Habitat loss is not the only threat; wildlife trade is also huge in Indonesia. This means that declaring a nature reserve is often not enough to ensure the safety of its inhabitants. The country is considered to be Southeast Asia’s largest exporter of wildlife, both legal and illegal. There is also a thriving domestic market for wildlife. While national laws support control of this trade, there are many barriers to effective legal enforcement, including sparse resources.

WCS Responds

WCS has worked continually in Indonesia since 1995, from Sumatra in the west to Papua in the east, and all major islands groups in between. WCS supports reforms to national laws and policies that will safeguard Indonesia’s wildlife and wild places for years to come. Our goals focus on protecting a number of key species and areas, but we hope to demonstrate model solutions that can help reduce threats facing much of the wildlife and wildlands across the archipelago.

Our work takes us from the tiger-filled forests of northern Sumatra—where stopping poaching and easing conflict between tigers and people are our biggest priorities—to the capital city of Jakarta and other large cities, where wildlife trade and smuggling occurs. In Sulawesi and Sumatra, we work closely with rural development agencies to promote village-level “green” development. We also promote alternative models of protected area management and financing, which are more appropriate for areas outside of conventional nature reserves in eastern and western Indonesia.

WCS Projects

Indonesia’s Wildlife Crimes Unit

WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit helps intercept the trade in illegal tiger parts on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The island’s populations of tigers and other endangered species are under siege by poachers who sell the animals into complex trade chains. These chains often terminate in illegal markets in China and other parts of East Asia.

From the Newsroom

Baby Primates Rescued in IndonesiaJanuary 23, 2014

An international trader with ties to global crime syndicates was arrested today for smuggling live animals, including baby siamangs and komodo dragons.

Lesser-known Species Fall Victim to the Illegal Wildlife TradeOctober 23, 2013

Dwi Dhiasto of WCS’s Indonesia Program discusses the threat of extinction facing the pangolin, an extraordinary and rare dog-sized animal, in Asia and Africa.

Sumatra’s Last TigersFebruary 29, 2012

In this TV news segment, WCS’s Joe Walston is interviewed about the reasons behind a 2009 spate of Sumatran tiger attacks.

Saving JuliusFebruary 23, 2012

As Indonesia steps up the fight against the illegal wildlife trade, one baby orangutan confiscated from the pet trade in Sumatra prepares for a return back to the wild.

Bird Smuggler Busted in SumatraJanuary 4, 2012

Indonesian authorities arrest a bird smuggler traveling through the island of Sumatra by bus, saving more than 20 rare birds—including the palm cockatoo—from becoming victims of the illegal wildlife trade.


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