Beware of the tiger: Indonesian police ban camping activities on Mt Dempo following attacks

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Pagaralam Police in South Sumatra have temporarily banned camping activities on Mount Dempo following a series of tiger attacks this month.

On Nov. 16, several locals reported sightings of a Sumatran tiger roaming around a tea plantation located in the mountain's foothills. This sighting circulated quickly through social media and stirred concern among locals who lived around the area.

On the same day, Irfan, 20, a resident of Musi Banyuasin regency, sustained an injury to his face after being attacked by a tiger when he was camping in the Tugu Rimau area. The next day, Kuswanto, a 57-year-old coffee farmer from Lahat Regency, was killed by a tiger.

Deputy Pagaralam Police chief Comr. Tri Wahyudi said the letter detailing the camping ban had been sent to the city administration through the tourism agency. The police decided to halt any camping activities temporarily as they were worried another attack might take place.

"We've also asked the tourism agency to help us ban camping activities around the location until the situation returns to normal," Tri said on Thursday.

Separately, Sumatra Natural Resources Agency (BKSDA Sumatra) head Geinman Hasibuan said the locations where the attacks occurred were out of the agency's monitoring range since Tugu Rimau itself is actually a conservation area.

The BKSDA has, however, deployed a team and veterinarians - who are equipped with traps and cages - to stand guard in the area should a tiger appear and engage with humans.

"We will return [the tiger] to its original habitat so that the locals won't have to worry about it anymore," Geinman said.

He added that his team was still looking into the causes behind the tiger attacks. However, he suspected that there were two factors that triggered the attacks, such as illegal hunting, which involved stealing tiger cubs, as well as illegal logging, which destroyed the tigers' habitat.

It was unlikely the attacks occurred because of a lack of water supply or forest fire as the areas where the attacks took place were not burned during the 2019 dry season and had a plentiful water supply, he said.

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"The tiger could have felt disoriented when it was looking for food. It accidentally entered human habitation and felt cornered," Geinman said.

In order to de-escalate the conflict between humans and tigers, BKSDA Sumatra has continuously informed the public regarding the law on tiger protection, especially on the prohibition on hunting or killing them.

The BKSDA also requested the public to coordinate with the agency and to release any tiger back into the forest should one be trapped. The agency also asked locals to be wary about tiger sightings in the area, and maintain coordination with the local administration.

"As of now, there are only 15 Sumatran tigers left across South Sumatra. We haven't received reports of tiger hunting throughout the past three years, but that doesn't mean we have to stop informing the public about protecting the tigers," Geinman said.