From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Team four made it back to Pekanbaru. And they’ve been a great help to the project. With lots of interviews with locals of the surrounding villages, both up and down the river. Quite a few of them have heard of people coming across tiger tracks in the last couple of months. Sadly, there is significant illegal logging going, so we have not been able to safely place any camera traps yet.

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The big surprise came on Thursday afternoon. Helga, Sian, Nicky and Sabine, who had been surveying a village, came across a bird cage with a leopard cat in it, hanging in a tree in the sun! Helga, who works as a captive animal behaviourist, could see immediately see that, unsurprisingly, the very young cat was highly distressed and very dehydrated. They then found out that it had been in the bird cage for two months with barely enough room to move and unable to stand up fully. So the four of them, after some negotiation with the “owner”, who claimed the cat had walked into his house as a kitten, brought the cat back to base in the cage to save it from the inevitable. As it’s not an endangered species there are no sanctuaries to take it to, so once back in camp, the whole team sprung into action. The team got hold of a much larger cage and through guidance from Helga and Febri made a temporary habitat for the leopard cat to live in for the next few weeks, until it gets its strength back again. This will also give us time to make local enquiries and think of the best course of action with our local partner WWF.


 

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Apologies for the dearth of updates, but the internet connection here in the field is either absent or very, very slow. Too slow to send pictures, so you will have to wait for the fortnightly changeovers for the full complement, sorry. So here is just some short text and a couple of pictures to illustrate our work and adventures.

A few days ago we met up with a plantation owner who had taken a tiger track photo on his phone at the end of last year. After walking with him through the forest for several hours, our overnight team finally reached the start point of their survey. The area where the picture was taken last year is now largely rubber plantations so Arnau, Caitlin, Beno and Sugi walked further into the woods and found that people working in that landscape generally don’t like the tiger presence, as it makes them feel unsafe. Febri too fears that at the speed with which these plantation are expanding, there could be human tiger conflict situations in the near future.

Another highlight of this slot was being invited into a local primary scool and Febri gave a presentation on the biodiversity of the rainforest all around them and told them how the future of tigers can be affected by deforestation. After that we played some animal games thought up by the team, which tied into the presentation, although all the scholl girls just wanted to be next to Caitlin with her fascinatingly white skin and red hair.

On our day off the team relaxed by a local waterfall, watching the local boys and team member Arnau, our resident space engineer/acrobat, jumping off the rocks into the pools below.


From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

 

With the work of the expedition in Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve back in full swing, a scientific article about five cat species (tiger, clouded leopard, golden cat, marbled cat, leopard cat) in Sumatra has just been published, examining how these species manage to coexist and the implications for their conservation on an island with high rates of forest loss and habitat degradation.

“[Cats] play a significant role ecologically as predators,” Sunarto Surnato, an ecologist with Virginia Tech and WWF Indonesia and the study’s principal researcher, told mongabay.com. “[T]hey control and influence the population number and also the behavior of other animals, especially their potential prey assemblage and this further affects the vegetation and the overall ecosystem, including the landscape.”

An adult male Sumatran tiger captured by camera trap. Photo credit: WWF_PHKA_VATech.
An adult male Sumatran tiger captured by camera trap. Photo credit: WWF_PHKA_VATech.

Using a large camera-trap study in five forested areas in Sumatra, the study camera-trapped all five species, there was only one location in which all five cat species were photographed together – Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve, the expedition’s study site!

The authors write that their study has important implications for the conservation and management of the various cat species in the study area, and possibly beyond, noting that the remaining forests of Sumatra, including the degraded ones, still have a high conservation value for wild cats and other wildlife.

“[E]ven the critically endangered Sumatran tiger can achieve high abundance in such forests, likely because prey is still supported in these areas,” the authors write. “[D]espite the widespread perception that rainforest animals need intact forest, we suggest that in addition to intact forested areas, protection of secondary, even degraded forests, is highly beneficial to maintaining the increasingly threatened wild cats in Sumatra.”

A Sumatran tiger captured by camera trap. Photo credit: WWF-KemenLHK.
A Sumatran tiger captured by camera trap. Photo credit: WWF-KemenLHK.

For us on the expedition, this means that we need to continue to look at the more degraded areas on the fringes of Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve, as well as those hard-to-reach, remoter areas, away from people and disturbance, in our quest for wild tiger conservation. We wait for the next update from Anthony on how things are going…

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From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

 

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Team 4 has arrived and they all looked ready for action and eager to go. Sian has already impressed me with the amount of gadgets she has in tow, portable fan, wireless sound system, not to mention stick-on LED lamps so no spiders in the loos will catch anyone by surprise. She’s really brought our humble jungle lodge into the 21st century.

With the risk assessments, science briefings and lessons on how to use all the technical gear out of the way, we were set, and after lunch on the second afternoon, ventured out into the field for our first taster of the rainforest and to test our newly found skills.

Febri, as ever, found the first tracks…and the second for that matter. Tomorrow we set out in earnest in our smaller groups to try and get some good data for him.

Febri
Febri

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Preparations at base are going well. The river levels have dropped because we are now well into the dry season, but we have access to a fleet of smaller boats. Febri is intending to extend his camera-trapping work and also has more ideas about further survey tasks that the team can perform.

tiger (5)

We are also talking to the local communities about hosting us on our overnighters and other activities that are designed to integrate local communities into our work. So far, so good. The trailblazing continues. Remember that this is our inaugural year and that tiger conservation in particular needs long-term solutions. We will keep plugging away patiently, building relationships and conducting our surveys. Thank you everyone for helping with this. You could have gone to the beach or a petting zoo or an easy safari. Instead you have chosen to be trailblazers in search of sustainable solutions to tiger conservation and the elusive animal itself. Thank you for this and we look forward to meeting team 4 tomorrow. Febri will meet you at the assembly point in Pekanbaru and Anthony will see you at Subayang base.


From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Not long to go now. This is Anthony Lyons, your expedition leader for the post-Ramadan Sumatra tiger slots. Our 4th slot will be with me on Sunday, 26 July, and hopefully raring to go forth into the jungle and the project ahead.

I arrived in Pekanbaru a couple of days ago. There’s a busy week ahead of final preparations. At the moment the plan is for slot 4 to be met by WWF staff in Pekanbaru and then to be transferred to Subayang base, where I will be. But this plan may change – remember that on expedition nothing is as constant as adapting the plan 😉

I’m really looking forward to meeting the team on Sunday and continuing the hard work and effort that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd slots have already put in.

Anthony

Anthony feeling quite pleased with his rubber boots


From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

 

We have added some more photos of the pre-Ramadan slots below and on https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152398112109472.1073741828.132594724471&type=3https://plus.google.com/photos/103347005009999707934/albums/6053262594686826289.

Continue reading “From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)”

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Franz’s article has now also appeared in Swiss “Tierwelt” (animal world) magazine. We have now put the three articles about the expedition on our Issuu account, if you want to share them that way.

http://issuu.com/biosphere-expeditions/docs/su-tierwelt15

http://issuu.com/biosphere-expeditions/docs/su-faz15

http://issuu.com/biosphere-expeditions/docs/su-wildside15


From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

Ramadan is upon us and the expedition is taking a break. But the work does not stop.

Febri has published a preliminary report for the first three groups. It’s available via https://www.dropbox.com/s/qv9c94tasksgm1z/Short%20Report%20XPDC%20RimbangBaling%20Slot%201%20-%203%20WWF-BE-KKB.pdf?dl=0. The report is in Bahasa, but a translation of the summary is below. It’s a Google Translate, so by no means perfect, but you get the gist. Of course an English report will be published after all six groups have been this year.

Franz, one of the journalists on the first group, has also just published an article in German broadsheet FAZ. This is at http://www.faz.net/aktuell/reise/blutegel-und-giftspinnen-tigerjagd-in-sumatra-13664512.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2. And we’ve already told you about the article in South African Wildside magazine, but here’s the link again, in case you’ve missed it https://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/images/stories/pdfs/media/su-Wildside15.pdf.

Groups 1 – 3, we hope you have good memories. Groups 4 – 6, we hope your preparations are going well.

 

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SUMMARY

Rimbang Bukit Bukit Baling landscape is a priority landscapes the Sumatran tiger conservation efforts (Panthera tigris sumatrae) and has been included in the Tiger Conservation Landscape (TCL) so getting global attention to the conservation of endangered species. Constitute lowland rainforest hills that keep diversity high biological as well as a water tower for dozens of counties underneath. This landscape is also populated by people who are still use natural resources wisely. Because of its potential high, one of the activities that are very relevant to be applied in this landscape is activity-based biodiversity and ecotourism local culture. WWF – Indonesia, Biosphere Expeditions, and Groups Work Batudinding work together to initiate tourist activities. The second component is based on the locale. With participants are foreign communities of various continents in the world, citizen scientist become the focus in this ecotourism activities. This activity is titled expedition tiger Sumatra held throughout the 6 (six) slots each – each two week of the month from May to June 2015 and from July to September 2015. Scientific Aspects become the main focus in the implementation of this expedition where we have a goal or a big goal because research on tiger expedition Sumatra is a crucial activity that through this activity able to provide a lot of information related to tigers and is also related with their biological information for conservation and management Rimbang Bukit Bukit Baling landscape. Initial results on the 3 (three) slot tops the period of May – June 2015 that it had conducted three core activities, namely survey both signs of the existence of wildlife as well as the installation of a camera trap, survey of social aspects related to the protection and human-tiger conflict, and environmental education at several elementary and secondary school level. This activity has a positive impact on wildlife conservation efforts as well as habitat, empowerment of local communities, as well as the development of activities ecotourism special interest in landscape Baling and Bukit Bukit Rimbang surroundings.


From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday in Indonesia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/sumatra)

We have now retrieved all camera traps. Not far away from one trap, the team found civet scat and tracks. This is a fantastic finding but of course everybody was anxious to see if there was also a civet trapped on the camera. Unfortunately not. But again mouse deer, wild boar, porcupines, macaques, great argus and even pangolins romped around in front of the traps. The tiger, too, remains hidden.

Jatt, Anh and Ryan started their overnigher in the rain north of the last village in the reserve, Ludai Dusepakat. A new dirt road, about three years old, gives the villagers better access to the outer world. The result is obvious: plantations all over and more logging. Very hilly landscape and dense forest made it difficult for the team to cover ground. Nevertheless they found sambar deer scat and tracks as well as a muntjac tracks. Well done. Before their return, they conducted an interview. Interesting is the fact that the villagers speak their own local language. Interviewees reported an overall decrease of wild cats in general, but in December 2014 a tiger was reputedly heard close to the village. In what way this information can be trusted is not clear.

Thursday to Friday night heavy, heavy rain poured down for more than 12 hours without a break. As we came down to the river this morning to start our return trip to Pekanbaru, we could not believe our eyes: the river level had risen so much that the “jetty” of our Field Station had disappeared – all steps were completely submerged. Nevertheless we made it back safely and almost dry.

Two more weeks have gone very quickly. It was a hard slog sometimes, so well done everybody. Thank you for the very constructive discussions and your contributions.

We realise that elusive tigers is frustrating and that the effects of all our hard work may not be immediately obvious, especially if you do not come across our main target species. But we ask you to be patient. This is our first year in Sumatra and, as we say in the Reality Check, science is not safari and the planet will not be saved on a single two-week expedition. Instead it takes years, sometimes decades, for conservation successes to establish themselves and take a firm hold.

For example, we spent ten years working in the Altai, researching snow leopard presence, building local capacity and trying to create economic incentives for local people to keep their snow leopard neighbours alive. When we started, there was no national park, little awareness, research or infrastructure, and rampant poaching (I am sure this must ring bells with you in Sumatra). Now we have a national park, national park staff, anti-poaching patrols, several research initiatives, much more awareness and many ways for local people to benefit from the presence of the snow leopard. Poaching continues to be a threat, as is the Altai gas pipeline, but all in all this is a remarkable turnaround and success story, and we are very proud to have played our part in this. We’ve had many successes through citizen science voluntourism over the years (see www.biosphere-expeditions.org/achievements) and the Altai is yet another excellent illustration of how citizen science-led conservation expeditions can make a genuine difference.

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We all hope that in time, Sumatra will join this list of successes. Please do not underestimate your contribution, even if you did not find tiger evidence on your group. You already know how underresourced Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve is and how difficult it is to make a living through anything but plantations, logging or otherwise environmentally harmful activities. Running the expedition to this remote place for three months makes a big difference to the rangers, public perception in the area, especially how the tiger and nature is perceived, and so many more things besides. Do not underestimate the effect the expedition has on these levels. And in time, as we build our networks, we will get deeper into the forest to protect the tiger and its habitat. Thank you for being a part of this process.

Finally, I would also like to thank all the team for your supported and commitment throughout. It was a pleasure and fun working with you. After Ramadan, Anthony will take over from me as an expedition leader. I wish slots 4-6 the best of luck.

Stay sharp …

stay sharp

Ronald


 

 

From our Sumatran tiger conservation volunteering holiday with tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia