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Indonesia considers adopt-a-tiger scheme

By Arwa Damon, CNN
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Adopt a tiger
  • Indonesian government considering initiative for tigers to be kept by public
  • Used strategy previously to help critically endangered Balinese mynah bird
  • WWF says "adopting" tigers is not a conservation solution

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- A male Sumatran tiger rears up against the bars of his cage, roaring. Even in captivity these creatures still remind us of their awesome power.

If you've ever dreamt of owning one of these ferocious creatures, now it just might be possible.

The Indonesian government is considering a conservation initiative that could see the general public legally keeping tigers as pets.

For a $100,000 deposit ordinary citizens would be allowed to care for a pair of critically endangered Sumatran tigers in their own backyard. That is as long as it's at least one tenth the size of a baseball field.

The government says that it is basing this initiative on a similar one that they launched for the Balinese mynah bird -- about the size of a pigeon -- that was on the brink of extinction.

The government says that the tigers and their cubs will still remain property of the state and will be closely monitored.

Illegal poaching and an eighty percent loss of tiger habitat has caused the number of Sumatran tigers to dwindle down to around 400 left in the wild. The government says that this initiative will help boost the tiger population -- albeit in captivity.

"A lot of businessmen have dead tigers in their houses. We hope that this program will eradicate poaching as a lot of people want to have tigers as pets."
--Darori, Director General of Forest Protection and Conservation

Darori, the Director General of Forest Protection and Conservation, believes this program will be a success.

"A lot of businessmen and top government officials have dead tigers in their houses," he explains.

"We hope that this program will eradicate poaching because in Indonesia or abroad a lot of people want to have tigers as pets. But because it is illegal they go and buy the dead tigers."

By having the option to care for live tigers Darori says the demand for the ones in the wild will decrease and allow that population to thrive.

At Taman Safari Park outside of Jakarta we meet Yuda and Vira -- two adorable balls of orange and black fur. The tiger cubs slip and slide across the floor of the animal hospital in a mad dash to get to their keepers holding bottles of milk. They were born in the park but abandoned by their mothers.

At a month and a half they are still the size of a small cat, their teeth not yet sharp enough to break skin. But by the time they reach nine months they will have turned into fierce carnivores.

The keepers at the safari park were all stunned to hear that their tigers could end up as household pets.

"We go through a rigorous training program," Arsyad explains.

The keepers are taught to look for specific signs that could indicate that a tiger is sick. They say the slightest change in behavior could mean something is seriously wrong.

The WWF and other NGOs warn "adopting" tigers is not the solution.

"Putting tigers into an area that small is not the answer to long term conservation," says Dian Kosasih of WWF Indonesia. "The WWF has always believed that conserving species in the wild is what we have to pursue."