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(U-WIRE) PRINCETON, N.J.--Indonesia's Bukit-Barifan-Seletan National Park doesn't compare to Paris for many summer tourists. But a group of eight environmentally dedicated students--members of the Princeton's Save the Tiger campaign--will set out on a two-month adventure to the park in June.
Estimates put the number of tigers remaining in the wild at fewer than 5,000. The group chose the Bukit-Barifan-Seletan park because it reportedly has the highest concentration of these animals in the world.
"The Princeton mascot is so important for us all.... When we come back, we hope to do many presentations in the Princeton community on tiger conservation, rain forests and the plight of tigers. We also hope to visit local high schools and elementary schools to educate them about tigers," said Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) major Shallin Busch, a junior. Busch said the group hopes eventually to put together a slide presentation to showcase its research research.
"We don't know what we are going to find. So little work has been done in this area of the world," said junior Margaret Metz, also an EEB major. "Indonesia still has so many resources untouched."
The group began planning the trip to the 900,000-acre national park last year. Margaret Kanard and Tim O'Brien, who did their post-doctoral research at Princeton several years ago, approached EEB Professor Andrew Dobson with the idea, then publicized it through the Princeton Conservation Society (PCS).
"They seemed extremely enthusiastic about having our help," said sophomore Ben Urquhart, who heard about the trip through PCS. "I have never done this level of biological research, but I have done more local, less-intense projects."
The five other students going on the trip are senior Hans Hull, sophomore Andy Goodman, junjor Sadie Ryan, sophomre Amanda Marr and sophomore Sarah Henry.
Fund-raising and red tape
Kanard and O'Brien have already begun work on the field station, which is partially sponsored by the national Wildlife Conservation Society.
The students said the group has spent a tremendous amount of time fundraising and obtaining permits from the Indonesian government.
"We raised $2,500 in the Run for the Tiger in the fall, but we have a long way to go in terms of funding and obtaining corporate sponsorships," Busch said, adding that the group has also received some funding from the University's President's Fund.
Indonesian students from other U.S. universities will accompany the Princeton group to help overcome the language barrier. While in Indonesia, the group plans to work mainly on mapping and habitat surveys. According to Busch, more detailed maps of the national park will help "figure out what is needed to save the tiger."
The group will try to find exactly where the tigers live, and also study the flora and fauna of their habitat. Finally, the group believes its presence may help slow tiger extinction.
"Having a research presence discourages poaching," Metz said.
The Save the Tiger group does not see its mission ending with this trip. The group hopes to develop a permanent field station to allow future Princeton students to do thesis research in the park, on the tigers as well as the indigenous tribes in the area.
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