Five men were finally rescued on Monday after spending five days trapped in a tree by a group of Sumatran tigers. A team of around 30 people rescued the men after several tiger tamers were able to lure the animals away using chants and mantras.
The men were attacked inside Aceh’s Gunung Leuser National Park by a mother tiger after accidentally killing its cub in a trap the group had set to hunt deer. The tiger killed one of the men, 28-year-old David, and forced the others to escape up a tree.
The survivors – Adi Susilo, Mujiono, Budi Setiawan, Suriadi and Awaludin – called for help on their cell phones, but when residents of the nearby Simpang Kiri village, where the men were from, arrived at the scene they found David’s partially eaten remains and saw that the mother had been joined by four other tigers. The villagers were eventually forced to turn back, leaving the men in the tree while a larger rescue party was organized.
“I received news from the evacuation team that they have already been rescued after three tamers were able to get the tigers away from the rescue location,” said Letnan Satu Surya Purba, a spokesman for the local police, as quoted by Mongabay-Indonesia.
The men had entered the protected forest nearly a week earlier in search of agarwood, a rare resinous wood used in perfumes that can be worth over $500 per kilo. However they ran into trouble on July 4 when a tiger cub was caught in a trap the men had set to catch deer for food – killing the cub instantly and causing the mother to attack.
“People keep entering the jungle to look for alim wood [agarwood] because it’s very expensive; up to Rp 5 million [$502] per kilogram,” said Adj. Sr. Comr. Dicky Sondani, police chief for Aceh Tamiang district, as quoted by the Jakarta Globe. “But, well, that’s the risk; there are many tigers and elephants in Gunung Leuser’s jungle.”
Dicky said police would not press charges against the men, but urged other villagers to stay out of the national park. “We’re calling on villagers not to enter the protected forests of the Gunung Leuser National Park because it is very dangerous.”
Rainforest in Sumatra
Tiger attacks have become an increasingly serious problem in Aceh and elsewhere on the island of Sumatra, where plantation development has destroyed large areas of natural forest habitat, leading tigers and other animals to enter areas settled by humans more frequently. Gunung Leuser National Park, together with the nearby Ulu Masen ecosystem, is one of the last remaining habitats for the critically endangered Sumatran tiger and other protected species including Sumatran elephants, Sumatran rhinos and Sumatran orangutans.
And while habitat loss has led to more and more conflicts with tigers in villages and other populated areas, a recent study indicates that even in forest areas that should otherwise be able to support tigers, human activities have contributed to low tiger population densities. This could mean that activities such as illegal logging for agarwood in Gunung Leuser may be dangerous not only for loggers, but also for endangered tigers.
“Tigers are not only threatened by the loss of their habitat as a result of deforestation and hunting, they are also very sensitive to the presence of humans,” Sunatro, the author of a recent study on tiger populations in Sumatra, told Mongabay-Indonesia. “They not only cannot survive in areas with inadequate carrying capacity, they cannot even live in forest that is really appropriate for them, if inside [the forest] there are too many activities done by humans.”
Sunatro’s study, “Threatened predator on the equator: Multi-point abundance estimates of the tiger Panthera tigris in central Sumatra,” was published in the scientific journal Oryx in April.