Groups Intensify Anti-Poaching Patrols in Sumatra

In Focus, January 2003

Anti-poaching patrols in Sumatra's prized Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park will continue and expand as part of long-term efforts by the Indonesia Rhino Conservation Program to reinforce the management and protection of the park.

The Indonesia Rhino Conservation Program, Program Konservasi badak Indonesia in the Indonesian language of Bahasa, has operated Anti-poaching Units or Rhino Protection Units since 1995, with financial support from a group of international conservation organizations led by the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) and including the Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF offices in Indonesia and the United States and others.

Due to the recent downturn in the world economy, donors who had supported the Protection Units were unable to continue doing so at previous levels. Fortunately, CEPF was given the opportunity to enable the patrols to continue and add additional patrolling capabilities as well. CEPF awarded the IRF a $372,710, one-year grant in December to intensify the anti-poaching program.

What's at Stake

The park at the southern tip of Sumatra is home to the second or third largest population of Sumatran rhinos. Of the total world population of only about 300 Sumatran rhinos, experts believe as many as 75 Sumatran rhinos (25 percent of the world population) are found in Bukit Barisan Selatan.

As the park is vital for the survival of the species, the program aims to maintain a high density of anti-poaching units. Large numbers of Sumatran tigers and elephants also inhabit the park as do other species such as tapirs, sambar deer, barking deer and wild boar, all of which are numerous and form a healthy prey population for the tiger.

Though it covers 365,000 hectares, the park is not more than a few kilometers wide in most places and is under increasing pressure. Poaching of wildlife is increasing, both from traditional hunters using snares and more sophisticated hunters using firearms. Firearms are widely available at a time when enforcement of environmental laws is weak.

Several programs have been initiated by local and international organizations to strengthen the protection and management of the wildlife and habitat of the park, in close cooperation with the park's management.

The RPU program, the longest running program in the park, provides the first line of defense for the critically endangered wildlife, while other programs focus on safeguarding the habitat and migration opportunities and developing the capacity for conservation efforts of the society and their leaders.

The protection units maintain detailed records of patrol dates and routes, evidence of poachers, traps and snares destroyed or confiscated, and signs of distribution and activities of rhinos, tigers and elephants. They also assist with apprehension and prosecution of poachers. Most members have been recruited from communities in the vicinity of the park.