Poachers broke into the Jambi Zoo on Saturday morning in Indonesia. Using meat they drugged a female Sumatran tiger named Sheila and then skinned her in the cage. They left behind very little of the great cat: just her intestines and a few ribs. Authorities suspect that the tiger’s body parts will be sold in the thriving black market for Chinese medicines where bones are used as pain killers and aphrodisiacs.
Sheila, the only Sumatran tiger at Jambi Zoo, was apart of a conservation program run by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to save the Sumatran tiger, a subspecies which is Critically-Endangered. Sheila was also a centerpiece for Jambi zoo to teach visitors about conservation.
Sumatran tiger in captivity. Photo by: Monika Betley.
“This tragic incident highlights the need for improved law enforcement at a local level. It is shocking that this tiger, who has contributed to tiger conservation via her role in training young Indonesian wildlife biologists and vets, should fuel the trade in wildlife parts which threatens her kind with extinction,” tiger conservation manager for ZSL, Sarah Christie, said.
Authorities also believe the poachers will sell the tigers’ skin and probably even collected its blood in bags to be sold.
“I just can’t bear the thought that this could be a new trend in the illegal wildlife trade, [that poachers] are now going after tame tigers in zoos rather than in forests,” Didy Wurdjanto, the head of the Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Center, told the Jakarta Post. “The demand for tigers is increasing and the price is getting higher because there are so few left.”
A thorough investigation of the crime is planned. It is estimated that there are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. They are threatened by rampant deforestation and poaching. Last spring there were several incidents of Sumatran tigers attacking illegal loggers.
(03/18/2009) The Sumatran tiger, a critically-endangered subspecies, is hanging on by a thread in its island home. Biologists estimate that at most 500 individuals remain with some estimates dropping as low as 250. Despite the animal’s vulnerability, large-scale deforestation continues in its habitat mostly under the auspices of one of the world’s largest paper companies, Asian Pulp and Paper (APP). Shrinking habitat and human encroachment has led to a rise in tragic tiger encounters, causing both human and feline mortalities.
(03/03/2009) Two more illegal loggers were attacked and killed Sunday night in Sungai Gelam district in Jambi Province on the island of Sumatra, reports the Jakarta Post. The deaths bring the total number of people killed by tigers in the province since January 24th to nine.
(02/27/2009) WWF has attributed six recent killings of villagers by tigers to deforestation in Sumatra. Habitat loss, together with prey depletion by hunting, is believed to be driving tiger-human conflict on the Indonesia island.