Environment Forum

Suspected smuggler of rare Sumatran tigers arrested in Indonesia

wwfid-518Indonesian wildlife officials have arrested a suspected smuggler of critically endangered Sumatran tigers after a two-day stakeout, World Wildlife Fund reports. There are believed to be fewer than 400 of these rare big cats in the wild.

The arrest was made by Indonesia’s Natural Resource Conservation Agency in Riau and West Sumatra provinces, with support from World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia’s Tiger Protection Units. The authorities also seized the skin of a Sumatran tiger they believed was poisoned.

After hearing of the poisoned tiger, the authorities staked out a poacher, which they believe led to a high-level wildlife smuggler, WWF said in a statement.

When they arrived at the suspected smuggler’s house, investigators located the tiger skin by following the smell of chemicals used to preserve animal parts. The tiger’s bones, valued on the black market for their supposed medicinal value, were not found. They did find a live python, parts of a Southern Serow (a kind of mountain goat) and a muntjac, or barking deer.

wwfid-517Authorities tracked a vehicle they suspected of picking up the skin and bones from the poached Sumatran tiger to Balung, a border area between Riau and West Sumatra. The driver of the vehicle was then seen handing over the tiger skin to the suspect, who is in police custody in West Sumatra.

Backyard tigers

ENVIRONMENT-TIGERS/Would you keep a tiger as a pet?

A puppy-sized tiger cub can be bought in the United States for as little as $200, and there are probably about 5,000 such backyard tigers across the country, about the same number of privately owned tigers in China, according to World Wildlife Fund.

That is far greater than the approximately 3,200 wild tigers worldwide, compared to the estimated 100,000 wild tigers a century ago. The growing number of these animals in captivity poses a threat to the species in the wild, WWF reports.

“People don’t realize when they buy a $200 tiger cub that it grows into a full-grown tiger, which means a huge enclosure and costs about $5000 a year just to feed,” says Leigh Henry, an animal conservation expert at WWF. “So you end up with a lot of unwanted animals that are very poorly regulated.”

Tiger among fluffy toys shows extreme smuggling tricks

tigerThe drugged tiger cub (left) hidden among cuddly toys in a bag at Bangkok airport  ranks as one of the most bizarre smuggling tricks.

Imagine the shock of X-raying the bag — as airport workers checking luggage did — and finding a live tiger among the fluffy tiger toys. Maybe it moved, or they spotted the outline of its skeleton among the other toys?

For a story about the two-month-old cub (photo courtesy of wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic) click here. A 31-year-old Thai woman was about to board a flight to Iran when they found the cub in her oversized bag.