Three endangered Sumatran tigers have been found dead after being caught in traps on Indonesia’s Sumatra island.
One female tiger was found dead, her head almost severed and a snare still stuck in her leg, near a palm oil plantation in Indonesia’s East Aceh district on Sunday. Five hundred metres away, the bodies of a male and female tiger were also found, both with leg injuries, according to local police chief Hendra Sukmana.
An autopsy is under way to determine the causes of the deaths, said Agus Arianto, who heads the conservation agency in Aceh, adding that several traps similar to ones used to capture wild boar on farms were found in the area around the dead tigers.
The species was classified as critically endangered in 2008 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, when its population was estimated at fewer than 680. Now, it is the most critically endangered tiger species in the world, with its numbers dwindling below 400. Authorities have called the recent deaths a setback to the species.
“We strongly condemned this incident,” Arianto said in a statement. Indonesian authorities have also urged plantation companies and the public to stop setting snares in forest areas, home to wild animals such as tigers, rhinos, elephants and orangutans – many of which are rare.
Poaching for profit, and a jungle habitat shrinking at the hands of oil palm plantations and illegal logging, is putting Sumatran tigers among other species under increasing risk.
A female tiger was found dead in a snare trap in October last year, in the Bengkalis district’s Bukit Batu wildlife reserve. Just two months earlier, two cubs and an adult tiger were found dead in a forested region for tiger conservation in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces, known as the Leuser Ecosystem Area.
Four men were also arrested last June for allegedly catching a tiger in a snare trap and selling its remains.
Sumatran tigers are not the only species to have been killed by traps. A baby elephant died after losing half her trunk to a trap set by poachers in November last year.
Intentionally killing protected animals is illegal and offenders can face up to five years in prison and a fine of 100m rupiah (almost $7,000) under Indonesia’s Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystems law.