Tigers Forever: Indonesia


In the southwestern tip of Sumatra at the end of the Bukit Barisan Selatan mountain chain lies Tambling, a small 450 km2 park on a peninsula projecting into the Sunda Strait. While constituting the southernmost contingent of the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (TNBBS ), Tambling has been privately funded and managed by Indonesian mogul Tomy Winata, since 1998. Tomy Winata’s uncompromising attitude towards land squatters, creation of an independent patrol force and construction of a guard post network toughened the security of the park and put an end to the rampant poaching of the 1990’s. Farmland inside the park is now reverting back to tiger habitat and the habituated herds of sambar deer that can be seen grazing on the park’s landing strip are the most obvious manifestation of a strong, recovering prey base.

In October 2012, Panthera began a partnership with Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation, providing Tambling with technical expertise, hardware and training. In 2013 Tambling conducted its first park-wide camera trapping survey revealing an astonishing tiger density. A total of 25 tigers were detected over a nine month period, with density estimates of 3.6-3.9 tigers/ 100 km2 across the whole site and as high as 5.8 tigers/100 km2 in the south of the park. This represents the highest known tiger density anywhere in South Asia and a remarkable natural population recovery. This is important as Tambling connects directly to the tiger landscape of Bukit Barisan Selatan and constitutes a vital source of dispersing tigers in southern Sumatra.

Tambling’s Rangers integrated SMART into their law enforcement work in July 2013 and have continued with solid patrolling of the core area. While its coastline provides Tambling a degree of natural protection along the south and western park boundaries, there is continual pressure on the park from communities all along its eastern border and in the enclave to the northwest. In October 2013 a large-scale operation involving Tambling Rangers working with the Indonesian Army and Ministry of Forestry successfully evicted encroachers from a 185 Ha area in the north of the park. Ongoing support from Panthera in field equipment and law enforcement training is supporting the progression of Tambling’s robust patrol force to a professional, highly trained unit.


Located on the eastern coast of Sumatra, the 6,000 km2 Berbak-Sembilang landscape forms a large block of contiguous swamp forest providing one of the last remaining wetland ecosystems available for tigers within southern Sumatra. This landscape straddles the provinces of Jambi and South Sumatra and is dominated by Berbak National Park (BNP) and Sembilang National Park (SNP), which cover a combined area of approximately 3,680 km2. BNP and SNP contain a unique tiger habitat of mainly wetland forest types including mangroves, mixed peat and fresh water swamps. Ecologically the region is best known as a Level I Tiger Conservation Landscape, as well as for its migratory bird value, having been established as a globally recognized ‘flyways site’. However, despite its ecological importance, BNP and SNP have been identified among one of the most threatened protected areas in Sumatra. The Zoological Society of London’s Indonesia Program identified critical threats, including lethal electric fences, poaching, forest fires and illegal logging. Despite these threats, a previous camera trapping study in SNP captured video footage of a tigress and her two adolescent cubs, clearly showing evidence of successful breeding, and therefore its potential as a Tigers Forever site.

Since 2012, Panthera’s Tigers Forever program has been implemented in Berbak-Sembilang landscape in partnership with ZSL - Indonesia with the aim to establish Tiger Protection and Patrol Units and Wildlife conflict and crime teams, as well as monitor tiger and tiger prey populations using Panthera camera trapping protocols; define a core area for tiger conservation in Berbak-Sembilang Landscape; and address the key threat of electric fences identified to tiger populations.

Kerinci Seblat

Located in west-central Sumatra, the 13,895 km2 Kerinci Seblat National Park (KS NP) is one of the largest protected areas in Asia and is considered to be a stronghold for many large mammal flagship species including the Sumatran tiger. The KS NP lies along the spine of the Barisan Mountain Range and has a wide range of habitat types, ranging from primary lowland forest to tropical sub-alpine forest that supports high biodiversity. The importance of KS NP’s biodiversity has led to its inclusion as a UNES CO Tropical Cluster World Heritage Site, which also includes Gunung Leuser National Park in north Sumatra, and the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in south Sumatra. In 2008, it was estimated that KS NP contained approximately 145 adult tigers, which represents one of the largest tiger populations in the world. Consequently, KS NP has been designated as a Level 1 Tiger Conservation Landscape. Despite its biological importance, primary threats across the national park include poaching of tigers and their prey, encroachment, pressure from transpark infrastructure development, and retaliation killing for human-tiger conflict. For nearly two decades Fauna and Flora International – Indonesia Programme (FFI -IP ) and the KS NP management authority have been working to mitigate these threats.

Located in the central section of KS NP, the 828 km2 Tigers Forever core area comprises predominantly primary hill and lowland hill forest that are fully protected under Indonesian Forestry Law. Human activities, with the exception of approved research, are not permitted inside the national park. This affords greater legal capacity for the Kerinci Seblat Tiger Protection and Conservation operational units (Tiger Protection Conservation Units; TP CUs) and other government agencies to address illegal action in the core area. Since 2012, Panthera’s Tigers Forever program has been working in partnership with FFI -IP and the KS NP management authority. The main objectives of this partnership are to reduce the major threats of poaching and habitat loss in the core area, and monitor tiger and tiger prey populations. Panthera provides technical equipment, scientific expertise and training. Since April 2014, FFI -IP has been implementing SMART in the core area, which will be critical for measuring, evaluating and improving the effectiveness of the TP CUs. KS NP also represents the first testing ground for Panthera’s new V5W PoacherCam (see Box 2), where these cameras will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable site security tool to assist the existing law enforcement efforts to combat poaching and other illegal activities within the core area.


Little was known about the status of the tiger population in Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP) or in the vast ‘Leuser Ecosystem’ in which the park lies, until surveys began in 2007 as part of the Tigers Forever program. Between 2007 and 2009, in collaboration with the GLNP and Leuser International Foundation (LIF ), a landscapewide occupancy survey was conducted over the entire Leuser Ecosystem – a remarkable area spanning more than 27,000 km2. Analysis showed that 62% of the landscape was occupied by tigers, with a population of around 100 individuals. Using these data and other information, a core site of approximately 2,500 km2 was identified in the province of North Sumatra. Since March 2010, teams began intensive biological monitoring using capture-recapture camera trapping in this new core area. As of October 2013, camera trapping efforts identified nine tigers roaming the mountains of the core area.

Landscapes as vast and rugged as the Leuser Ecosystem are a challenge to protect from determined poachers. However, the WCS-Indonesia Program has established Wildlife Crime Units (WCU) throughout this landscape to combat the threat of tiger poaching and trade. Since 2007, in collaboration with the police and provincial wildlife authority (BKSDA), eight people involved in tiger poaching and trade have been sent to prison, and an additional 11 cases are still in process.

In the Leuser landscape the deliberate killing of tigers, driven by fear or in retaliation for livestock depredation, is a major threat to the population at large. In response to this, Human-Wildlife Conflict response units were established in 2008 to respond to conflict incidents in the Tigers Forever core area and immediate surroundings. The teams have managed to respond to over 90% of reported conflict events since January 2008 and were able to reduce the number of tiger removals (i.e. known deaths/captures) by 62% between 2007 and 2009. The threat posed by wire snares, set for prey but equally dangerous to tigers, remain of great concern and these are now the subject of concerted law enforcement efforts in Leuser.

Ulu Masen

At approximately 33,000 km2, the Leuser-Ulu Masen Landscape comprises one of the largest contiguous forest blocks in Indonesia. The landscape contains high biodiversity and is home to Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinoceros and orangutan. The importance of the Leuser-Ulu Masen Landscape’s biodiversity has led to its inclusion as a UNES CO Tropical Cluster World Heritage Site, which also includes Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, and is currently classed as a Level 1 Tiger Conservation Landscape. The estimated tiger occupancy is 0.74 (±0.040).

Since 2012, FFI -Indonesia Aceh Program have been implementing Panthera’s Tigers Forever program in the 7,380 km2 Ulu Masen section of the Leuser-Ulu Masen Global Priority Tiger Conservation Landscape. This forest estate consists of Lowland (20.4%); hill (39.2%); submontane (29.2%) and montane (11.0%) forests. Within the 2011 provincial spatial plan, the entire Ulu Masen forest estate is designed as a ‘strategic area’ consisting of Protected Forest and Nature Reserve (74%), Production Forest (12%), Other Use Area (7%) and Non-Forest (7%). Critical threats to tigers are direct poaching of both tigers and their prey, and deforestation. However, the average deforestation rate in Ulu Masen (0.78%/yr) from 2005- 2010 was considerably lower than the annual deforestation rate for Sumatra (2.33%/yr). To date, the partnership between FFI -Indonesia Aceh Program and Panthera has resulted in 1) the completion of the first ever Tigers Forever camera trap survey for Ulu Masen, 2) the establishment of a local informant network to tackle illegal logging, 3) the establishment of Ulu Masen as a formal SMART pilot site, and 4) the establishment of six specialist units in each of the Ulu Masen districts to tackle tiger poaching and trade.

Tigers Forever is currently being carried out in this country and five others:

tiger Programs

Tiger squinting Tigers Forever | Ensuring Tigers Live in the Wild Forever
Save the Tiger Fund Save the Tiger Fund | The STF-Panthera Partnership

Panthera on the Ground

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