11 December 2012
A group of brave men who spend their lives protecting one of the last remaining wild populations of Sumatran tigers have embarked on a trip of a lifetime.
A long-running partnership between Australia Zoo and conservation organisation Fauna & Flora International (FFI), has seen four Indonesian tiger protectors travel out of Sumatra for the first time ever, to Australia Zoo, where they had their first hands-on encounter with the animal they strive to protect! Wooo-hoo!
The conservation cultural exchange program was a concept of the Australia Zoo tiger department as a way of increasing awareness and understanding for the staff who work tirelessly to fundraise for FFI's tiger program, and for the frontline patrol teams who live for months on end in the forests of Indonesia.
Thanks to these patrol teams, who work closely with national park staff, the forestry department, police and local communities, tiger poaching is now a very risky business. Not only are poachers being arrested, but the teams are also having a big impact on stopping poaching activities, intervening before poachers can strike.
"The work FFI and their team leader Debbie Martyr do in Sumatra is nothing short of remarkable. The teams literally put their lives on the line, every single day, to save this species from extinction," said Giles Clark, Australia Zoo international conservation manager and tiger supervisor. "We do a lot of work at Australia Zoo to support FFI both financially and in-kind, and the exchange program felt like a natural progression to ensure everyone involved had a good idea of what's at stake."
Three teams of tiger handlers from Australia Zoo travelled to Sumatra earlier this year to spend some time on patrol, getting a feel for what their Indonesian colleagues face on a daily basis. Every one of them returned with a renewed respect for their dedication.
Australia Zoo tiger handler Mark Turner said, "I have a new-found admiration for the work these guys do - this was an invaluable experience and has given me a better understanding of the program we support."
Australia Zoo's relationship with FFI now spans close to a decade and has had a hugely positive effect on what FFI has been able to achieve on ground. Dr Stephen Browne, FFI's Asia-Pacific Director of Operations commented, "Tigers are a popular target for extinction predictions - of the nine recognised subspecies, three are already extinct, with two more teetering on the brink. It's a fact that across their range, tiger numbers are declining; but in Indonesia's Kerinci Seblat National Park, one of the primary locations our anti-poaching units operate, the reverse is now thought to be true. We would not be seeing such positive signs without the continued support of our friends at Australia Zoo."
Crikey, is that a fact? Sumatran Tiger Protection & Conservation Units (TPCU):
- The TPCU program is regarded as Indonesia's premier tiger conservation initiative, and as such has been adopted as the model for tiger conservation strategies in several countries across South East Asia
- Although the program's main focus is to protect the Sumatran tigers that reside in Kerinci Seblat National Park (KSNP) protection is also given to some of the most bio-diverse habitats currently known on earth
- KSNP is the largest protected area in Sumatra (14,000 square km)
- The Sumatran tiger is the last remaining 'island' tiger, after the Bali and Javanese sub-species became extinct last century
- The TPCU program was responsible for the first ever apprehension and conviction of tiger poachers and traders in Sumatra 12 years ago
- Australia Zoo is the single largest contributor to the TPCU program, funding over 50% of their annual costs, as well as providing other logistical support such as vehicles, essential field equipment and providing technical training and support
Hearing such positive feedback is awesome for all those involved (from the program organisers to Australia Zoo's visitors donating their loose change at the Tiger Temple). The success of this program proves, once again, that we can MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
You too can get involved and help Australia Zoo, FFI and the TCPU:
- Sponsor our Sumatran Tiger Conservation Project. An ideal Christmas gift!
- Adopt one of gorgeous Sumatran or Bengal Tigers
- Choose from our wide range of Tiger related gifts in our Online Shop
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