JAKARTA, March 20, The Jakarta Globe — Most Indonesians his age lead a calm life, spending time spoiling grandchildren or taking up pastimes such as gardening. But not Wiryo Asmada.
The 92-year-old resident of jungle-covered Riau has continued his life’s calling, depleting the local population of Sumatran tigers, a protected species on the brink of extinction.
Conservation officials yesterday put an end to his 75-year trapping career that has seen him kill at least 44 of the rare cats, catching him red-handed trying to sell the skin of his latest victim, a 23-year-old, 215cm-long and 160cm-tall tiger he trapped on March 3 in Pelor village, Kuala Cenaku.
“He had been killing Sumatran tigers since he was 17 years old. He has confessed to having killed at least 44 in Riau since 1960,” said Refdi Azmi, protection programme head with the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BBKSDA).
The tally, however, did not include other tigers Wiryo hunted outside Riau. Refdi said the strongly-built old man also hunted his prey in neighbouring West Sumatra.
Wiryo said he usually sold the tigers’ body parts — skin, bones, meat, fangs and claws — to customers in Singapore.
“We are still investigating whether this trade involves a syndicate,” Refdi said.
He said Wiryo’s arrest followed a tip from residents of Indragiri Hilir district who said a skin was being sold in Kuala Cenaku subdistrict of neighbouring Indragiri Hulu on Thursday afternoon.
Wiryo, better known as Pak Jenggot because of his beard, was arrested while transporting his latest catch’s skin and bones.
“When we caught him, he was on a boat, and we have secured him in our office in Pekanbaru,” Refdi said.
An official at BBKSDA’s branch at Rengat district, Murmaidin Iskandar, said the illegal hunting of Sumatran tigers had become more rampant in the past three years. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Sumatran tiger population is getting smaller by the day, with fewer than 300 remaining in Indonesia, half of them in Riau.
“That is why we are determined to investigate the syndicate in the Sumatran tiger trade,” he said, adding that perpetrators could be charged with violating a 1999 law on the conservation of natural resources and ecosystems that carries a minimum of five years in prison or a fine of Rp100 million (RM37,400).
On Monday, Willem Wijnstekers, secretary-general of the UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, said that 35 years of global efforts to save tigers in the wild had “failed miserably” and that the big cat was closer than ever to dying out. The Balinese and Javan tigers were driven to extinction in the 1930s and 1980s, respectively.
-courtesy to The Jakarta Globe
--Photo by WWF Indonesia -- 2009