Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra

by Sumatran Orangutan Society
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra
Tackling Wildlife Crime in Sumatra

Thanks to the combined efforts of the ForWPU team and Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP) officials, an alleged wildlife crime perpetrator was recently arrested with two pieces of tiger skin. Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) are Critically Endangered and the market demand for body parts is one of the major factors contributing to their decline through poaching. Undercover officers caught the perpetrator on a highway when he tried to sell them the pieces of tiger skin. He will now be charged under Indonesian law and faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of 100 million IDR.

It is important to remember that people who poach or in any other way contribute to wildlife crime are still human beings - often with very few other options to make money. Please bear this in mind if you share this story.

Work like this is tough for the team. It takes a long time, and it can be dangerous. We owe a debt of gratitude to the people who are willing to undertake it and protect endangered species from the illegal wildlife trade.

Thank you for supporting us to keep the team going. You are contributing to a safer future for endangered animals in Sumatra's forests.




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A pile of processed timber by Batun river.
A pile of processed timber by Batun river.

Illegal logging, the practice of illegally harvesting, buying or selling timber from forested areas, has serious detrimental impacts on wildlife, people and the environment. In Sumatra, these effects range from the destruction of orangutan habitat to the endangerment of people's lives as disappearing forests lead to soil erosion and flooding. 

Illegal logging is therefore one of the primary areas of concern for the Forest and Wildlife Protection Unit (ForWPU). One recent investigation focused on Bukit Barisan Forest National Park. The team spent several months monitoring the area and collecting data, most recently documenting a large pile of 80 seven-metre long logs on the bank of the Batun river. At another location nearby, they found a stack of processed timber, indicating that the illegal logging operation is quite developed and widespread across the national park. 

The evidence painstakingly collected by the ForWPU team was passed on to local authorities, who will now take action against the loggers under Indonesia's forestry laws.

Bringing this kind of illegal activity to light takes a lot of time and effort by several teams of people, and ForWPU is a crucial piece of that puzzle. Thank you for supporting their work and helping to keep Sumatra's forests standing.

Processed timber in Bukit Barisan forest.
Processed timber in Bukit Barisan forest.
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Patrolling the forest. Photo by Andrew Walmsley.
Patrolling the forest. Photo by Andrew Walmsley.

Working for the Forest and Wildlife Protection Unit is a very varied job. With an average of 1200km of precious forest covered by the team's patrols each year, every day brings new challenges in the mission to protect Sumatra's incredible wildlife.

So, what does a week in the life of the patrol team look like? Here's a recent example - shared with us by the team earlier this month.

Here is a list of threats found on patrol:

  1. A complete stun stool and other fishing stun equipment. The owner is unknown.
  2. Around 36 rubber trees in Gunung Leuser National Park. We removed the trees, as they are not permitted inside the national park.
  3. Evidence of land burning and oil palm trees being planted inside the national park area.
  4. A resident of a village near the forest has taken 33 saplings to be used to as building material. We found around 400 logs in his house, along with a machete and other tools. 
  5. Working with the WCS patrol team, we caught four poachers, with a mouse deer (Tragulus kancil) carcass as evidence, along with two confiscated air rifles, bullets, and a machete.

In the cases where the team identified the individuals responsible for the poaching or logging, they handed them over to the authorities for questioning. As the account above shows, it's not always possible to tell who is responsible for things like land burning or planting crops inside the national park, but by documenting everything they find, the team can build a picture of wildlife crime hotspots and ensure these areas are monitored even more closely.

Thank you for continuing to support the Forest and Wildlife Protection Unit. You are making this vital work possible.

Evidence of burning forest. Photo by OIC.
Evidence of burning forest. Photo by OIC.
Evidence of illegal logging. Photo by OIC.
Evidence of illegal logging. Photo by OIC.


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A ranger in action. Photo credit Andrew Walmsley.
A ranger in action. Photo credit Andrew Walmsley.

We are often reminded of the importance of consistent, dedicated patrols to tackle wildlife crime. Recent news stories from Sumatra have highlighted the ongoing challenges to Sumatra's wildlife from illegal activity, and we are proud to be supporting some of the patrol teams working hard to reduce incidents like these. 

On 12th December 2018, Rare Bird Alert reported the seizure of over 8,000 birds, captured from the wild in Sumatra and destined to be sold at bird markets in Java. Thanks to the efforts of local NGOs, the surviving birds were released back into forests in Sumatra, and forestry authorities are on high alert to try to prevent more birds being taken from the wild.

Then, just a couple of days later, The Jakarta Post reported on the discovery of a dead baby orangutan in a village in North Sumatra. The orangutan had been kept as a pet by a resident of the village, and authorities and NGOs (including our partner, Orangutan Information Centre) were alerted to its presence by calls from members of the public, who saw the body and knew it was important to report it. The man who had been keeping the orangutan as a pet said that it died because he couldn't afford to feed it, and he and other village residents have now given the authorities valuable information about where the orangutan was captured. This will enable wildlife crime patrol teams to keep a closer watch on the area. The case has also been reported to law enforcement agencies so that the man who kept the orangutan can be punished.

The death of any animal is always incredibly sad, and of course it's hard to focus on the positives when faced with stories like these. However, we know that even as recently as five years ago, before consistent funding started coming in for wildlife crime patrol teams, these cases could easily have gone unnoticed, meaning no further investigations and no measures being put in place to stop them happening again. Funding boots on the ground does make a vital difference. Your donations make a vital difference. 

So, as 2018 draws to a close, we're asking you to consider making a recurring donation to this project. If you could commit to giving every month, the impact of your support would be heightened: if we know money is coming in, we know we can keep the wildlife crime patrols out in the forest for months and years to come. 

Thank you for your support. We couldn't do this without you.

Happy Holidays!

The Sumatran Orangutan Society team.

Sumatran orangutan - one species patrols protect.
Sumatran orangutan - one species patrols protect.


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Much of the wildlife patrol team's work is underpinned by careful data collection. We know this sentence alone doesn't inspire excitement, but without the records the team so painstakingly keeps, we would have no baseline to work from in our efforts to ensure that the animal populations we want to conserve are growing in number. 

So, what data does the team collect, and why?

What they've seen

Whether it's a snare, an illegally-planted crop or evidence of a poacher's presence, the team keeps records of what they've seen as they patrol the forests in and around the Leuser Ecosystem. Even things that might look insignificant to you or me, or that we perhaps wouldn't notice, all get noted - the little things could become part of a bigger story later on; could make the difference between stopping a poacher in their tracks, or not.

Where they've seen it

The team carries GPS units everywhere they go. It's crucial that they keep accurate records of exactly where they've seen evidence of illegal activity, so they can continue to monitor the area for any further signs of encroachment.

What they've done

Often, the team is able to take immediate action to address the problems they come across. For example, they can ensure no animal is injured or killed by snares by destroying them and removing them from the area. This activity is also recorded as another way of keeping track of the incidence of snares over time. It also provides a clear picture of just how much we need the patrol team - it's awful to think how many animals could have been lost to snares alone if the team didn't come across them first.

Thanks to your support for our dedicated team, we continue to tackle wildlife crime so that we can keep Sumatra's forests healthy and full of life. Thank you.

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Organization Information

Sumatran Orangutan Society

Location: Abingdon, Oxon - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @orangutansSOS
Project Leader:
Lucy Radford
Abingdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom
$6,301 raised of $45,000 goal
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