The island of Sumatra, which covers about 47,348,100 hectares, has 1,343 watersheds [watersheds]. The 16 longest and largest rivers were recorded , namely the Alas [Kutacane] River, Krueng Aceh, Asahan River, Barumun River, Batang Gadis, Batang Hari, Krueng Jamboaye, Kampar River, Indragiri River, Lematang River, Musi River, Batang Rokan, Siak River, Batang Tarusan, Way Tulang Bawang, and the Wampu River.
The island of Sumatra is also home to the Sumatran tiger [ Panthera tigris sumatrae ]. Range of 500-600 surviving individuals. His living space stretches from Aceh to Lampung, which is divided into a number of pockets.
This relationship spawned a number of traditions, including the legend of the tiger man [demon]. Like the legends of Cindaku in Kerinci [Jambi], the tiger man in Mount Dempo [South Sumatra], and the seven tiger men in Bengkulu.
“The Tue [Sumatra tiger] guards the springs and rivers in this jungle [forbidden forest],” said Artan Ardila, a traditional leader of the Besemah tribe, during a visit to the forbidden forest of Air Cold Lama Village, Tanjung Tebat District, Lahat Regency, Sumatra South, mid-May 2023.
“If Tue wasn’t here or gone, maybe the springs and rivers in this forest would have been damaged long ago. It is not impossible that encroachers from outside will cut down the wood in this forest,” explained Artan.
“It can be said that tigers guard springs and upstream rivers,” said Parsin , a resident of Sukomoro Village, Rawas Ulu District, North Musi Rawas Regency, South Sumatra, early February 2023.
The people of Minangkabau, West Sumatra, also understand the Sumatran tiger as a guardian of springs and rivers in the forest. “If you enter a jungle, you have to be alert or careful at certain locations around springs and rivers. The community will also not damage springs or rivers. If you do that, you will face tigers,” said Arbi Tanjung, a cultural worker from West Sumatra, in mid-July 2023.
“In forest areas where springs and rivers are still good, it is certain that there are Sumatran tigers living in the area,” explained Arbi.
Hendra Gunawan, Principal Researcher for Biodiversity Conservation at the National Research and Innovation Agency [BRIN], assesses the public’s understanding that Sumatran tigers are guardians of water sources, because tigers really like clear and calm water.
This understanding is also a form of human respect for other living things and nature, which is understood as “ecocentric”.
“[Ecocentric] is the highest environmental understanding or ethics. This understanding views all components of this ecosystem as equal, we respect animals the same as us, who respect plants, water, soil, and others,” he explained, Friday [07/21/2023].
“The easiest thing to see and understand is the food chain . In a complex ecosystem, these food chains are interconnected or overlapping to form food webs or also called webs of life [ food web ].”
With this understanding, it is very easy and clear to understand the relationship between animals and water, or other components. Like humans with Sumatran tigers.
Soak in the water
“One of the behaviors of [Sumatra] tigers that other types of cats do not do is bathing,” said Hendra.
Animals generally consume water to drink sufficiently or naturally. In fact, for [small] cats, they cannot drink for several days because water is obtained from the meat they eat.
Protect the tiger, protect the river
The flash floods that hit the Lematang River [South Sumatra] in early 2023, are considered by a number of Besemah people in Lahat Regency and Pagaralam City, as the result of human disrespect for tigers.
“Many of Tue’s homes have been destroyed by humans. The wood was cut down, turned into a garden. As a result, the Tue several times attacked those who destroyed his residence . However, these activities continued. As a result, the flash floods made it difficult for us,” said Saudi , a resident of Pagaralam City, in mid-May 2023.
The Lematang River is about 271 kilometers long. The watershed area is around 29,588 hectares, which are located in Pagaralam City, Lahat Regency, Muaraenim Regency, and PALI Regency. There are dozens of rivers that empty into the Lematang River, for example the Lim River, Endikat River, and Enim River.
Several tribes live around the Lematang River. Apart from the Besemah Tribe, namely the Enim Tribe and the Lematang Tribe. These tribes are very wise with springs and rivers. So they know the forbidden forest.
They also really respect the Sumatran tiger which usually lives in the forbidden forest. In fact, they do not even have a tradition or culture of hunting tigers or other protected animals, such as elephants.
“There is no benefit in hunting tigers. In fact, humans suffer a lot when they kill tigers. In addition to life, disease, also natural disasters. That is the belief of us who live upstream of the Rawas River,” said Parsin.
However, various extractive activities, such as forest encroachment for timber, coffee, rubber, oil palm plantations, and [coal and gold] mining, have damaged or opened up a lot of forests in the Lematang and Rawas watershed areas.
As a result, apart from the loss of many springs, the volume of river water has become unstable, and the Sumatran tiger has also lost its living space. As a result, they descend into community settlements to find food. A conflict ensued.
Proud to have Many Rivers
Every July 27 is celebrated as National River Day. This warning is very important, because in Indonesia there are around 330 major rivers. Some of the rivers that have built the civilization of the Indonesian people are currently experiencing damage. Both due to illegal logging , agriculture, plantations, settlements, mining, to industrial waste and household waste.
The impact is extraordinary. Starting from clean water crises, floods, droughts, loss of food sources, extinction and critical populations of fish [belida fish and others], conflicts between humans and animals [crocodiles], and the loss of various maritime cultural traditions related to rivers.
The relationship between Indonesian people and rivers has been going on for decades. This relationship made a number of rivers give birth to large empires in the archipelago. For example, the Batanghari River with the Malay Kingdom, the Cisadane, Ciliwung and Citarum Rivers which gave birth to the Tarumanegara Kingdom, the Musi River with the Sriwijaya Kedatuan, and the Brantas River which gave birth to the Majapahit Kingdom.
However, today in commemoration of National River Day, the condition of these rivers continues to be deplorable, even though a number of rivers are starting to improve, such as the Citarum River. However, several other rivers in Indonesia actually suffered damage.
Based on Mongabay Indonesia’s records , there are two forms of damage to the river. In the upper reaches of the river, the damage was caused by illegal logging, agriculture, plantation and mining activities. Both gold mining, coal, to tin.
The worst was experienced by the Musi River. Damage to the upstream [of its eight tributaries], not only due to illegal logging and clearing of agricultural land, but also from oil palm plantation activities, coal mining [Lematang River and Enim River], and gold mining [Rawas River and Rupit River].
While downstream [Palembang], various industrial and household wastes fill this 750-kilometer-long river every day.
The same condition is felt by the Air Bengkulu River in Bengkulu . As a result of mining, clearing of land for plantations and agriculture, many watersheds [watersheds] of Air Bengkulu are no longer able to accommodate and hold back the flow of water during the rainy season.
As a result, dozens of people died, hundreds of houses and public facilities were damaged [roads, bridges, ditches and culverts], thousands of people were displaced, and various other losses due to the 2019 floods and landslides.
While downstream, damage to the river is caused by waste, especially plastic waste and toxic waste from industry, hospitals, malls and households. Damage is also caused by development, which causes part or all of the river body to be filled up.
As a result, a number of cities that are downstream of the river, such as Palembang [Musi River], Jambi [Batanghari Sembilan] or DKI Jakarta [Ciliwung and Citarum] are prone to flooding.
In fact, a number of parties predict that if repairs are not carried out immediately, in the future these cities will sink, such as Palembang, South Sumatra .
Crocodile conflict with humans
Since the 2000s, when people’s tin mining or unconventional mining was rampant, these activities have gradually damaged dozens of rivers on Bangka Island. The island which covers 1,169,354 hectares with 67 rivers.
Septian Wiguna, Head of Conservation Resort Region XVIII [Bangka Belitung Islands] BKSDA [Natural Resources Conservation Center] South Sumatra said, “From 2016 to 17 July 2021, there were 100 human-crocodile conflicts in the Bangka Belitung Islands,” he said, Tuesday [ 27/7/2021].
2016 [8 cases], 2017 [5 cases], 2018 [21 cases], 2019 [28 cases], 2020 [19 cases], and 2021 [19 cases]. “From that conflict, 17 people died and 26 crocodile individuals died. A total of 93 crocodiles survived, and 37 people survived,” he said.
Crocodile and human conflicts spread across Bangka [26 cases], East Belitung [19 cases], Pangkalpinang [18 cases], Central Bangka [15 cases], West Bangka [10 cases], South Bangka [9 cases], and Belitung. [3 cases].
While the regions [sub-districts] that experienced the most conflicts were Puding Besar [19 cases], Gantung [9 cases], and Bukit Intan [7 cases].
Septian agrees that human-crocodile conflict is caused by damage to rivers and watersheds such as swamps.
Septian explained, on Bangka Island there are 24 crocodile pockets [habitat]. Most of these habitats are in rivers. The rest are in swamps or under [former mines], and estuaries [fishing harbours].
In Bangka Regency, the habitats are in Selindung River, Baturusa River, Kampung Pasir River, Sinar Jaya River, Kulong Baye, Jukung Air Kolong, Perimping Bridge, Banyuasin River, Mancung River, Kayu Arang Port, and Kayu Besi River.
For Central Bangka Regency, it is spread over the Air Lempuyan River, Tebok Kurau River, Air Gunting River, Berok River, Munggu River, Selan River and Pangkalraya River.
Furthermore, in South Bangka Regency, namely Kepoh River, Gusung River, Nyireh River, Ulim River, Kelubi River, and Bangka Kota River.
Human-crocodile conflicts also occur in South Sumatra, such as in peat and [coastal] mangrove areas in Banyuasin, Ogan Komering Ilir [OKI]. This includes Jambi, Riau and other areas in Indonesia.
All of these conflicts occurred in river and peat swamp areas, as well as mangroves, which were damaged by plantations, aquaculture, settlements and mining.
“There needs to be a location for crocodile habitat that is clean and clear from human activities. This is difficult to realize, but ideal. The location is a crocodile release center,” said Septian, as a solution to overcoming crocodile conflicts with humans.
Short term, made captivity. “The place is being temporarily relocated, but the arrest is based on a study so that a catch quota for broodstock appears,” he continued.
Human conflict with crocodiles is the culmination of the end of the harmonious relationship between humans and rivers.
“Since long time ago, perhaps long before the presence of humans, thousands of crocodiles have lived in rivers in Indonesia. Humans and crocodiles live in harmony. This is marked by the existence of traditions, such as river alms, and forbidden areas [of forests and swamps] around rivers,” said Conie Sema, an art worker from Palembang.
Until now, in Indonesian society there are still known or understood crocodile shamans [handlers], or crocodile demon humans. However, due to the rise of extractive economic activities, and the change in civilization from the river to the mainland, this harmonious relationship has been broken or lost.