Debbie Martyr – the morality of conflict

Posted on Dec 19, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Debbie Martyr – the morality of conflict

The wonderful Debbie Martyr of FFI Indonesia, is already planning her Christmas holiday in Bali, but what’s this… she’s planning to carry on working whilst there? I think not….. read on to hear the moral of her story.


Being horribly grown up and responsible these days, I don’t get to go to the field as often as I used to…but that will change over the next two weeks.

While most everybody else gets to do the Festive Season bit, I shall be going back ‘to the field’, selflessly collecting some data on an often over-looked aspect of human-tiger conflicts – the indirect economic cost.

When you mention the phrase human-tiger conflict, most people conjure up images of a ferocious ‘man eater (though in my experience, tigers very rarely actually eat a person they have killed) or, at very least, tigers roaming farmland killing cattle and goats.

But of course, the vast majority of conflicts are not remotely like that and involve not predation of livestock, let alone attacks on people  – but  simply the fear of that happening. And fear is a potent force.

The tiger doesn’t have to be seen – pugmarks on a farmland track for example – are all that is needed to start disrupting village life and make villagers think twice about to going to their farm for the day.

And if there are signs ‘the tiger’ is still in the area the next day, so anxieties will grow even though there has been no direct threat to livestock or people. And so the impacts of a solitary tiger (if the footmarks were indeed of a tiger – which is not always the case) strolling peacefully through forest edge farmland expand exponentially.

Hunters may seek to exploit villagers’ fears by offering to trap the tiger ‘to protect the village’, individuals hostile to the national park may blame the park for ‘’letting its tigers stray’, farmers’ livelihoods are disrupted. And all this without the tiger actually doing anything that directly threatens people or livestock.

But what if this conflict was not happening in a village bordering Kerinci Seblat National Park where a substantial part of the village economy is subsistence farming and so the economic impact may be difficult to measure?

What if a conflict were to occur in an area with a thriving cash economy, albeit an area where the last human-tiger conflict recorded was quite a long time ago? What would be the economic impacts?

And so, at great personal cost, over the next couple of weeks I will be working to try and quantify the potential economic cost of a low-grade, victimless human-tiger conflict in a small resort in Bali so I can report back to the national park and they can plan accordingly.

I think that the impact on the pedalo hire chappie will be relatively minimal and could indeed be beneficial (‘yikes, Tiger, get in the pedalo and pedal darling’) but the romantic beach front bar, at edge of the bay, by the woodland, I think would see a sharp reduction in evening visitors.

I will have to attend at least one beach side BBQ and count the numbers of people at the BBQ and, for the first hour or so at least, try to figure out the amount of beer and arak consumed as tiger pugmarks on the beach would, I suspect, lead to cancellations.

Clearly one must visit a number of the little beach restaurants in quieter locations, check the price of a cold beer and see how business is going as, if there were a conflict developing,  even at the height of the day,  business could be down. And clubs, they open at night…just when tigers are most active.

And so, in early January, I shall come back to Sumatra with my report on the potential economic impacts of a low-grade, (victimless) human-tiger conflict on tourism in Bali, and, I am quite certain, citing the sort of figures that tend to subsequently lead to formation of Presidential Enquiry Task Forces.

 And my friends at the national park will go ‘What the ***  are you on Deb, there are no tigers in Bali!’

And I will reply: “Absolutely correct dahlings! But there are in Sumatra.  And even if most of our conflicts are a consequence of a tiger taking a short cut in a remote forest-edge community they should be taken just as seriously as a conflict that might threaten a multi-million dollar tourism industry if we want local people to work with us to conserve wild tigers in the long term.’’

Merry Christmas All!