A Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) has been caught in a regulated trapping in Muara Enim district, South Sumatra, and is now undergoing observation at a conservation facility in Lampung.
Wildlife biologists and veterinarians are monitoring the tiger’s behavior and health before it can be released back to the wild.
Population of the Sumatran tiger, the only remaining island living tiger, is estimated to be less than 400 in the wild. Two other Indonesian tiger subspecies -- Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica) and Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) -- have been declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The critically endangered subspecies of tiger is increasingly in conflicts with human in Muara Enim as deforestation causes them to rapidly lose habitat. The local government has set up a task force to handle conflicts between human and tigers.
The task force has installed cameras and cage traps at several areas in the forest to catch the big cats alive to be relocated to the conservation area. A cage trap in Pelakat village managed to capture a tiger which was then transferred to the Sumatran Tiger Rescue Center at the Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation (TWNC) in Lampung.
Sugeng Dwi Hastono, a veterinarian at the TWNC, said the captive tiger has shown unusual behavior and loss of appetite.
"This tiger is still young and prone to stress, possibly because of the relocation from Muara Enim to Lampung,” he said.
He said his team was doing their best to minimize interaction between the captive tiger and humans, including cage keepers and veterinarians. They provided vitamins and meats for the tiger, which is housed in a much bigger cage.
Built in 2007, the facility at the TWNC focuses on wild tigers with history of conflicts with human. The captive big cats will be released to the wild once they are deemed healthy and able to hunt prey on their own. Until now, the facility has captured 13 Sumatran tigers and returned seven of them to the wild.
The conservation area is located near a village. Its staffs conduct routine patrols and use camera traps to monitor tiger activities in the area.
Edi Firiyanto, a security personnel at TWNC, recalled how he was in a face-to-face encounter with a tiger. He said Sumatran tigers would not attack humans unless they were provoked.
"I was attacked by a tiger in the morning, but it was my fault. I was defecating in a river alone and silently. At that time I wore a black hoodie because it was cold. I covered my whole body with the jacket so I might look like a black boar,” he said.
Eddie said he survived because the tiger realized that its prey was human.
"I had defended myself, but finally the tiger knew that I was human and then he left me alone."
Maintaining habitat and natural prey population are also a priority to prevent Sumatran tigers from hunting livestock or entering residential areas. According to the TWNC, there was no single case of a tiger attacking residents near the conservation area.