ndonesia as a nation possesses the greatest biodiversity in the world and is considered a global priority conservation "hot-spot". However, many of the wildlife species, including the Sumatran tiger, rhino and elephant, are now threatened with extinction. This is not just because of the loss of habitat, but also a direct result of the widespread activity of poachers and illegal traders. Factors causing this include weakness in law enforcement, the low priority afforded to conservation in general by the government of Indonesia, and the poor awareness of the general public relating to the importance of conserving natural resources.

The Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation, I. Made Subadia comments: "The illegal trade in rare wildlife not only occurs within our country, but there is also evidence of smuggling to supply the international market." He goes on to say "Even though the exact extent of the trade is unclear, there is evidence that the economic value of the illegal smuggling trade in wildlife could actually be greater than that from illegal export of logs". The government is now enthusiastically inviting parties to collaborate and cooperate on stopping the illegal trade in wildlife through strong law enforcement.

Acording to Chairul Saleh from WWF Indonesia; "Poaching and persecution of Sumatran tigers must be stopped immediately; if not, with the current rates of extermination, the Sumatran tiger will be extinct within 7 to 12 years". Hariyo Tabah Wibisono, from the Wildlife Conservation Society - Indonesia Program, elaborates further: "To save the Sumatran tiger, besides from preventing poaching and trafficking, its also important to conserve the populations of prey species upon which the tiger feeds; in particular through consistent punishing of offenders that exploit these prey animals, and by further strengthening laws related to the exploitation of currently unprotected tiger prey species." He adds that these regulations should be applicable right down to the regional and district levels.

Waldemar Hasiholan, the program manager of the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program (a Sumatra-wide collaboration between the PHKA, The Tiger Foundation and the Sumatran Tiger Trust) identifies some current activities intended to save the Sumatran tiger in the wild: "At the present time we are focusing on setting up a system of Tiger Protection Units (TPU) which will integrate with ongoing PHKA collaborative activities such as those managed by the Indonesian Rhino Conservation Program (supported by the International Rhino Foundation). In addition to carrying out basic field protection, these teams also coordinate investigations into anti-poaching, illegal trade and human-wildlife conflict across the island of Sumatra." Programs such as these demonstrate the commitment of both national and international non-governmental organizations in supporting the PHKA's own efforts to enforce wildlife law.

Hutabarat, who as program manager of the Indonesian Rhino Conservation Program has managed Rhino Protection Units for more than five years, believes that current efforts to prevent poaching of rhinos in Indonesia still need intensifying. "Often we still find ourselves left some way behind the rhino poachers." He adds, "What is most needed is cooperation and synergy between all those involved - forest rangers, police, the judiciary and the prosecutors - to deal out sentences to those guilty that are at least in accordance with the currently existing laws. It should not happen again, that a rhino poacher caught red-handed only gets a sentence of three months. This is not a sentence likely to have any kind of preventative effect."

"The government must enforce law against poachers and illegal traders of tigers, rhinos and elephants - without flinching from its responsibilities, and as proof of its commitment to implement CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) regulations", states Daniel Walter Sinaga from the CITES Tiger Enforcement Task Force, Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation. Harry Alexander, from the Law Institute for Natural Resources (IHSA), focuses on technical weakness in current law enforcement: "Poachers that kill tigers, rhinos or elephants can actually be charged and sentenced based on a complex of laws, for instance Law No. 5 of 1990 relating to biodiversity conservation and ecosystems, and Law No. 23 of 1997, regarding management of the environment. Together these would allow a maximum sentencing of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to 1.5 billion rupiah."

The Sumatran tiger, rhino and elephant must be preserved, together with their habitat, in order that the critical and valuable ecosystems in which they live can themselves be conserved. "We hope that Indonesia can avoid the problems that have recently beset the South China tiger", says Ron Tilson, director of conservation at the Minnesota Zoo and chairman of The Tiger Foundation. From the surveys carried out by The Tiger Foundation and the government of China in 2001 no tigers were found in any of the surveyed regions, prey species were severely depleted, and habitat was limited to small and fragmented areas. "The South China tiger is clearly on the edge of extinction in the wild, exactly the same fate that has already occurred to the Bali and Javan tigers in Indonesia some years ago" states Dr. Tilson