Oyos Saroso H.N.
In the last 18 months, five Sumatran tigers from Aceh and Jambi have been released in Tambling, the southernmost part of the South Bukit Barisan National Park (TNBBS), by a private company which manages the park.
Two ministers of forestry in different terms of office (M.S. Kaban and Zulkifli Hasan) attended the release of the protected animals into the conservation zone.
Meanwhile, locals have not been relocated yet, as the West Lampung regency administration and the company, had promised.
When the first bunch of tigers were released in July 2008, the West Lampung regent promised to move 164 families from the hamlet to a safer location without delay.
Mukri Friatna, campaign manager for Sumatra’s Walhi, indicated his forum had, from the beginning, objected to the tigers’ release.
While the zone has a common border with a village settlement, security for the forest community is not guaranteed.
“Besides around 500 Belimbing locals in Way Haru, there are still tens of thousands of people living in the TNBBS. It means that, compared to Mount Leuser National Park, the chance of tigers coming into conflict with man in the TNBBS is greater,” Mukri added.
In Mukri’s view, the conflict between tigers and man is inevitable unless there is a mutually favorable solution.
“In Aceh, tigers at first preyed on domestic animals, but later attacked humans too. The same may happen in West Lampung,” warned Mukri Friatna.
Belimbing community clan chief A. Zulqornain Syarif Gelar Sutan Panji Negara affirmed that the Belimbing ethnic group would not move until the problem was settled.
According to Zulqornain, local residents do not object to tiger conservation in Tambling.
“We uphold community rights as specified in the 1945 Constitution, which clearly protects the existence of indigenous communities. Moving this ethnic group by force means eliminating our existence as an indigenous community,” Zulqornain said.
Zulqornain added that Sumber Rejo village, once offered as a relocation area, was not a suitable place for the purpose.
“Sumber Rejo is an illegal zone not recognized by the state. It’s a village set up because of forest squatting. So it has a different status than Way Haru hamlet,” noted Zulqornain.
He added that in June 2009, the Belimbing clan’s leaders consulted ahead of the plan to clear Pangekahan as a conservation area for Sumatran tigers from Aceh, and agreed on three points.
First, the Belimbing ethnic community would maintain its land covering the hamlets of Pangekahan, Way Haru, and Bandardalam. Second, if the Pangekahan community (indigenous and non-native people) plans to move, the land and what it contains must be returned to the Belimbing clan. Third, the clan’s land already sold by the community must be returned to the Belimbing clan’s communal board.
”As the owner of the communal clan’s land, we refuse to move even if we’re offered compensation,” Zulqornain stressed.