Deforestation behind Sumatran tiger attacks - WWF

JAKARTA, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Indonesia needs to urgently halt the destruction of forests in Sumatra, conservation group WWF said on Wednesday, after six people were attacked and killed by rare tigers in Jambi province in less than a month.

"As people encroach into tiger habitat, it's creating a crisis situation and further threatening this critically endangered subspecies," Ian Kosasih, director of WWF's Forest Programme, said in a statement.

Further illustrating the conflict between humans and endangered tigers, three young tigers were killed by villagers this month in Riau province, also in Sumatra, apparently after they strayed into a village in search of food, WWF said.

On Sunday, a tiger attacked and killed a man carrying logs near an illegal logging camp in Jambi in eastern Sumatra, Didy Wurjanto, head of the Jambi nature conservation agency said.

Two other illegal loggers in the same area were mauled and killed on Saturday.

Authorities had trapped a female tiger believed to be behind three killings earlier this month in the area, Wurjanto told Reuters, but the capture had not stopped the latest killings.

"In light of these killings, officials have got to make public safety a top concern and put a stop to illegal clearance of forests in Sumatra," said WWF's Kosasih.

About 12 million hectares (29.65 million acres) of Sumatran forest has been cleared in the past 22 years, a loss of nearly 50 percent islandwide, according to WWF.

The Sumatran tiger is the most critically endangered of the world's tiger subspecies.

Forest clearance often for palm oil or logging, killings due to human-tiger conflict, and illegal hunting for the trade in their parts, have led to tiger numbers halving to an estimated 400-500 or less on the Indonesian island from an estimated 1,000 in the 1970s, conservationists say.

Reporting by Ed Davies and Telly Nathalia; Editing by Valerie Lee