Medical teams were scurrying about one morning in late July at the Dharmasraya Sumatran Tiger Rehabilitation Center (PR-HSD) in West Sumatra Province. They were preparing for an important task: installing GPS collars on a male and female Sumatran tiger.
Bonita, an 8-year-old female, had been in conflict with humans since 2016 in neighboring Riau Province. The conflict lasted for two years, reaching its peak when the tigress preyed on a woman named Jumiati on Jan 3, 2018. Panicked residents began fleeing the area, located near a large oil palm plantation, while more angry locals sought revenge. Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, through the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA), together with several other partners, worked to save Bonita and evacuate the animal from the area in April of that year. She has since been rehabilitated and deemed ready to return to the wild. Atan Bintang, a 4-year-old tiger, was also fitted for a collar. He was also involved in territorial conflicts with humans in Riau, and was evacuated by a BKSDA and PR-HSD rescue team in November 2018 and taken to the rehabilitation center, owned by prominent businessman Hashim Djojohadikusumo.
Bonita and Atan Bintang were released into a remove forest in Riau not occupied by humans and the GPS collars will allow expects to monitor their movements and make sure they don’t stray near human settlements.
Rural villagers in Sumatra usually try to kill tigers as they see them as threat. The ultimate goal is to use technology to protect these critically endangered animals, so they can roam freely – and safely.