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JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - An Indonesian government proposal offering rare Sumatran tigers up for adoption by wealthy citizens has drawn scorn from environmental activists, who say it's the wrong approach to conservation.
There are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in Indonesia, where deforestation has destroyed much of their native habitat and they are hunted for traditional medicines and illegal menageries.
Tiger "adoption" -- where a pair can be rented out as pets in exchange for a 1 billion rupiah ($107,100) deposit -- could help curb illegal hunting and trade, a Forestry Ministry official said on Friday.
"There are many orders from rich people who want them, who feel if they own a tiger they are a big shot. We have to take concrete steps to protect these animals," said Darori, the ministry's Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation.
The tiger "renters" must allow visits at three-monthly intervals by a team of vets, animal welfare officers and ministerial staff.
The animals will come from those already kept in captivity, and must be given cages with minimum dimensions of five meters high, six meters wide and 10 meters (16 feet by 19 feet by 32 feet).
"That's almost as big as my house," said Darori. "And because these people are rich, they will definitely give them good food."
The tigers will remain state property and will be returned to the state if they are no longer wanted, he said. Any cubs the tigers produce will be the property of the state.
Darori said he had received complaints about the plan from 12 environmental NGOs.
"So we have invited them for consultation before we continue with this plan. If we can agree, it will be put into practice as soon as possible," he said.
Greenpeace's forest campaigner, Bustar Maitar, said the plan was tantamount to selling the tigers off.
"It shows the government is not serious about addressing the real issues threatening Sumatran tigers. They need to stop issuing forest concessions," he said.
Additional reporting by Chatrine Siswoyo; Editing by Sara Webb and Miral Fahmy