Designed to increase the role of local villagers and communities, the course is unique in that trainees are supported by, not only Government and non-governmental conservation organisations, but also by private industry. Organised by the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program (STCP) and hosted by the Department of Forestry (Bukit Tigapuluh National Park), the course brings together a diverse group of 29 dedicated individuals from across Indonesia, united by a common mission to conserve some of the world’s most endangered wildlife.
International and Indonesian conservation groups sending trainees include Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, and the Sungei Wain Protected Forest Management Unit (Kalimantan).
Department of Forestry Ranger Police in attendance have travelled from West Sumatra, North Sumatra, Aceh, Jambi, Riau (Sumatra) and Central Kalimantan provinces.
In addition to Indonesian and foreign instructors from Bukit Tigapuluh National Park and the STCP, training staff have been assembled from provincial Police, the local health department, the Indonesian Rhino Conservation Program and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program.
The training board also includes 8 members of Indonesia’s new and elite Forest Police Rapid Reaction Force (SPORC: Satuan Polisi Hutan Reaksi Cepat) – only recently formalised by the Minister of Forestry in January 2006.
Class-based training, starting on the 2nd February, runs for 15 days. This is followed by 10 days of practical field exercises. A final 5 day “live” exercise places 8 widely dispersed protection units deep in the mountains of Bukit Tigapuluh with the task of, through radio coordination between teams, designing and executing the strategic interception and safe arrest of an “evading” 9th team.
The wildlife protection system being promoted is one which relies on recruitment and intensive training of personnel from local communities surrounding the protected area, each unit lead by an armed ranger from the Department of Forestry. The participation of villagers in this has, in practice, seen a significant increase in the local acceptability of park and wildlife law enforcement efforts.
It has also increased the perception of community ownership of nearby forests and greatly facilitated the delivering of conservation messages to the heart of surrounding villages.
In return both rangers and park management enjoy the support and empowerment generated by these close community links.
The wildlife protection “boot-camp” this year represents the second such training in Bukit Tigapuluh. In late 2004 the first camp recruited, trained and deployed 5 anti-poaching and habitat protection teams across the park. These Tiger and Orangutan Protection Units (TOPU) have been operational since then, providing a front-line defence against wildlife poaching and illegal logging.
Tiger and Orangutan Protection Units (TOPU)
in Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, Sumatra
(all photos copyright of STCP)
Together with the national park, the TOPUs have had unprecedented success in arresting and prosecuting a major wildlife poaching and trade syndicate stretching across several provinces. They have also been effective in eradicating large-scale illegal logging from the park’s buffer zone and provided ongoing monitoring of conditions in the remotest parts of the 1,400 square kilometre park.
A goal of this year’s training is to break-down barriers and develop closer cooperation between NGOs working throughout Indonesia, and the building of bridges between Government, non-government and industrial partners with a concern for wildlife conservation.
LINK: Wild Tiger, the STCP Blog