The first group of our Sumatran Tiger expedition has come to an end. It has been a successful 12 days surveying a total of fourteen cells for tiger prey species and signs of illegal logging and poaching. We have also placed a total of seventeen camera traps, which the next group arriving on Sunday will be busy retrieving. It was often tough going, tromping through deep water, up steep muddy hills, cutting our way through dense jungle, and all whilst leeches were enjoying our blood. What a great effort by all!
Interviews were also conducted with members from villages, or rubber plantation workers that we met in the field. Most local people are scared of tigers, but there seem to be strong mythical beliefs that tigers are the guardians of the forest and that when a human is killed by a tiger, it is because they have done something bad.
“I wish there were more tigers as there are too many bad people these days,” said the vice-headmaster at the elementary school on Batu Sangan village!
The large number of wild pigs is also a reason that many of our interview subjects expressed a wish for increased tiger populations. We see signs of wild pigs everywhere and often spot them along the river. The locals do not hunt wild pigs due to their Muslim faith, and wild pigs are a nuisance as they eat the villagers’ crops.
We also visited two schools, talking to the children about tigers and the importance of their habitat and prey in the area. Illegal logging and poaching for deer is common and on the fringes of the Rimbang Bailing Wildlife Reserve forest is being clear-cut for palm oil plantations. Our school visits were well received, and both teachers and children were excited to see us.
Now a day to recharge and reorganise in Pekanbaru before the next group is ready to head into the jungle on Sunday morning.