by Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Wang Aona
JAKARTA, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Ahmad Faisal is a volunteer with the Harimau Kita (Our Tiger) Forum, a non-profit organization working to protect the Sumatran tiger in Indonesia.
The Harimau Kita Forum has been fighting for the Sumatran tiger for many years, and the task is not easy. Hunters lay hundreds of traps in the forests that the few remaining tigers call home.
Faisal recalled finding a terrified tiger ensnared in a barbed wire cage in Lampung Province on the island of Sumatra, one of many found in poachers' traps each year. Its injured leg had to be amputated to save its life.
"They sometimes use steel cages. All animals in the forest can get trapped, not only tigers. This is the biggest threat for the population of Sumatran tigers," Faisal told Xinhua.
The island of Sumatra is the only home of the eponymous and critically endangered Sumatran tiger, with less than 400 surviving in a rapidly shrinking habitat.
Rampant deforestation has forced both tigers and poachers into smaller and smaller areas. Poaching occurs even in the most protected forests, as hunters seek the huge profits generated by tiger parts on the black market. Creating some kind of equilibrium between the tigers and the ever-encroaching humans is the top priority of Faisal and Harimau Kita.
The tiger conservation forum has more than 100 members, including professionals and academics, and is supported by around 300 volunteers, almost all in Sumatra. Volunteers survey and monitor tiger populations. Most members have jobs outside the forum.
"The work of the volunteers is very challenging. We operate almost entirely in the tigers' last strongholds -- inaccessible highland forests. They are not ideal places for humans," Faisal said.
The biggest threat for the volunteers is actually the tigers themselves. The forum works with the people who live close to the tigers to learn how to avoid conflicts with tigers and other animals.
Ardi Andono, head of Sumatra Natural Resources Conservatory Agency, believes that humans must live side by side with tigers, as their habitat is swallowed up by settlements, mining and oil palm plantations. Sumatra loses 1.8 percent of its forest every year.
"Tigers avoid humans whenever they can. They don't want trouble, but they are losing their home and have to eat. We need local residents to find a way to coexist with the tigers," said Faisal.