BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — Three critically endangered Sumatran tigers were found dead after being caught in traps on Indonesia’s Sumatra island in the latest setback for a species whose numbers are estimated to have dwindled to about 400, authorities said Monday.
A female and a male tiger were found dead Sunday with leg injuries caused by a snare trap near a palm oil plantation in East Aceh district of Aceh province, said local police chief Hendra Sukmana.
The body of another female tiger was found hours later about 500 meters (550 yards) away with a snare still embedded in her almost-severed neck and legs, he said.
Sukmana said authorities have appealed to the community and plantation companies not to set snares in forest areas where wild animals may cross.
An autopsy was underway by a team of veterinarians to determine the causes of the tigers’ death, said Agus Arianto, who heads the conservation agency in Aceh, adding that several traps similar to ones used to capture wild boars on farms were found in the area around the dead tigers.
Snare traps are commonly used by farmers on Sumatra island to catch wild boars, which are considered destructive pests with a wide and ravenous appetite for a variety of plants. However, poachers have also used snare traps to kill endangered wildlife for economic purposes.
“We strongly condemned this incident and will cooperate with law enforcement agencies in an investigation,” Arianto said in a statement.
Under Indonesia’s Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystems law, those who intentionally kill protected animals would face up to five years in prison and a fine of 100 million rupiah ($7,000).
Sumatran tigers — the most critically endangered tiger subspecies — are under increasing pressure due to poaching and a shrinking jungle habitat, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. It estimated that fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild.
It was the latest killing of endangered animals on Sumatra island. Conservationists say the coronavirus pandemic has led to increased poaching as villagers turn to hunting to supplement diminished incomes.
In October, a female tiger was found dead with injuries caused by a snare trap in Bukit Batu wildlife reserve in the Bengkalis district of Riau province, just two months after three tigers, including two cubs, were found dead in the Leuser Ecosystem Area, a forested region for tiger conservation in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces.
Aceh police also arrested four men last June for allegedly catching a tiger with a snare trap and selling its remains for 100 million rupiah ($7,000). Days later, another Sumatran tiger died after it ate a goat laced with rat poison in neighboring North Sumatra province.
A baby elephant died last November after losing half her trunk to a trap set by poachers who prey on the endangered species.