Remember our article about man eater Sumatra tiger which was on the loose?. After being hunted for more than 100 days, a Sumatran tiger, called Bonita by animal conservationists, was captured alive on Friday in Indragiri Hilir regency in Riau. Bonita had been haunting human neighborhoods, scaring residents for months. The latest tiger-human conflict in Sumatra saw a tiger brutally killed, as angry residents in North Sumatra speared the animal to death and later hung it from a ceiling.
Sumatran tiger occupy a wide array of habitats, ranging from sea level in the coastal lowland forest of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on the southeastern tip of Lampung Province to 3,200 m (10,500 ft) in mountain forests of Gunung Leuser National Park in Aceh Province. They have been repeatedly photographed at 2,600 m (8,500 ft) in a rugged region of northern Sumatra, and are present in 27 habitat patches larger than 250 km2 (97 sq mi)
Following the incident, activists have been campaigning for Bonita’s life, pleading with residents and Riau authorities to capture the big cat alive. Bonita, estimated to be four years old, had been shot twice with tranquilizer, Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency head Suharyono said in the provincial capital of Pekanbaru on Saturday. A joint team had been on patrol in the wee hours of Friday, amid heavy rain, in a plantation area run by PT Tabung Haji Indo Plantation, a Malaysian company who turns profits from using the Hajj funds from Malaysia, in Tanjung Simpang village, Pelangiran district. Earlier, they had found Bonita’s traces and followed them. “Her favorite track is hard soil,” Suharyono said.
Sumatran tigers strongly prefer uncultivated forest and make little use of plantations of acacia and oil palm even if these are available. Within natural forest areas, they tend to use areas with higher elevation, lower annual rainfall, farther from forest edge, and closer to forest centres.
Between 1985 and 1999, forest loss within Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park averaged 2% per year. A total of 661 km2 (255 sq mi) of forest disappeared inside the park, and 318 km2 (123 sq mi) were lost in a 10-km buffer, eliminating forest outside the park. Lowland forest disappeared faster than montane forest, and forests on gentle slopes disappeared faster than forests on steep slopes. Most forest conversion resulted from agricultural development, leading to predictions that by 2010, 70% of the park will be in agriculture. Camera-trap data indicated avoidance of forest boundaries by tigers. Classification of forest into core and peripheral forest based on mammal distribution suggests that by 2010, core forest area for tigers will be fragmented and reduced to 20% of remaining forest.
Sumatran tigers prefer forest with dense under-story cover and steep slope, and they strongly avoid forest areas with high human influence in the forms of encroachment and settlement. In acacia plantations, they tend to use areas closer to water, and prefer areas with older plants, more leaf litter, and thicker subcanopy cover.
Tiger records in oil palm plantations and in rubber plantations are scarce. The availability of adequate vegetation cover at the ground level serves as an environmental condition fundamentally needed by tigers regardless of the location. Without adequate understory cover, tigers are even more vulnerable to persecution by humans. Human disturbance-related variables negatively affect tiger occupancy and habitat use. Variables with strong impacts include settlement and encroachment within forest areas, logging, and the intensity of maintenance in acacia plantations.
Bonita was different from other tigers, Suharyono said. Besides preferring a beaten path instead of the bushes, Bonita also showed a calm demeanor when she found herself in a cage. Other tigers would usually fight for their freedom, he said.