In the depths of Indonesia’s dense Leuser rainforest, a group of rangers are searching for traps set by poachers which are endangering rare wildlife.

Scientists and conservationists consider this place, which falls mostly within Acheh province in northern Sumatra island, to be among the most important forests left in South-East Asia.

It is the last place of sufficient size and quality to support viable populations of rare species like orangutans, Sumatran tigers, rhinoceroses, elephants, clouded leopards and sun bears.

In 2015, hundreds of traps were confiscated monthly in Leuser. But now, fewer than 10 are found every month, according to local conservation NGO Forum Conservation Leuser.

“The rangers are trained to track signs indicating that there were poachers in the area, such as footsteps,” said Rudi Putra, head of the forum.

dismantling traps

Dismantling traps set up by poachers to capture bears and tigers.

dismantling traps

The Leuser ecosystem is the last place of sufficient size and quality to support viable populations of Sumatran tigers, orangutans, rhinos, elephants, clouded leopards and sun bears.

Some traps are designed to snare animals’ feet. Others consist of spears set high up in trees, which would fall when a trap is sprung.

The rangers also watch for signs of deforestation such as illegal logging, and collect data from the forest for further research.

Poachers typically set up traps to capture elephants, tigers and bears so they can sell them illegally and make money. – AFP