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Sumatran Tiger

Overview

This tiger subspecies is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. As late as 1978, experts estimated the population of Sumatran tigers at 1,000. Today fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers exist.

  • Status
    Critically Endangered
  • Population
    less than 400
  • Scientific Name
    Panthera tigris sumatrae
  • Weight
    165 – 308 pounds
  • Habitats
    Tropical Broadleaf Evergreen, Forest, Peat Swamps, and Freshwater Swamp Forests

Today, the last of Indonesia’s tigers—now fewer than 400—are holding on for survival in the remaining patches of forests on the island of Sumatra. Accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching mean this noble creature could end up like its extinct Javan and Balinese relatives.

Sumatran tigers are the smallest surviving tiger subspecies and are distinguished by heavy black stripes on their orange coats. They are protected by law in Indonesia, with tough provisions for jail time and steep fines. But despite increased efforts in tiger conservation—including law enforcement and antipoaching capacity—a substantial market remains in Sumatra and the rest of Asia for tiger parts and products. Sumatran tigers are losing their habitat and prey fast, and poaching shows no sign of decline.

Remarkable Images of Big Cats Urge Forest Protection

Camera trap photos capture five of the island’s big cat species in the wild.

WWF is working hard to identify and document the amazing biodiversity of this region, including species such as this marbled cat, in order to help ensure that this area is appreciated and protected.

Why They Matter

  • The island of Sumatra is the only place where tigers, rhinos, orangutans and elephants live together and the presence of Sumatran tiger is an important indicator of biodiversity in a forest. Protecting tigers and their habitat means many other species benefit—including humans.

Threats

  • Population less than 400
  • Extinction Risk Critically Endangered
    1. EX
      Extinct

      No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

    2. EW
      Extinct in the Wild

      Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

    3. CR
      Critically Endangered

      Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

    4. EN
      Endangered

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    5. VU
      Vulnerable

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    6. NT
      Near Threatened

      Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

    7. LC
      Least Concern

      Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

Habitat Loss

Habitat for the Sumatran tiger has been drastically reduced by clearing for agriculture, plantations, and settlement. On many parts of the island, illegal timber harvesting and forest conversion are out of control. Approximately 25,868 square miles of forest—larger than the state of West Virginia— was lost in Sumatra between 1985 and 1997. Even protected areas face problems. National parks have been isolated from one another through forest conversion.

Most tigers in Sumatra are killed deliberately for commercial gain. According to a survey from TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade monitoring network, poaching for trade is responsible for over 78% of estimated Sumatran tiger deaths—consisting of at least 40 animals per year. There is no evidence that tiger poaching has declined significantly since the early 1990s. This is despite intensified conservation and protection measures in Sumatra, and the apparent success globally in curtailing markets for tiger bone.

Human-Wildlife Conflict

Habitat destruction forces tigers into settled areas in search of food, where they are more likely to come into conflict with people. Human-tiger conflict is a serious problem in Sumatra. People have been killed or wounded, and livestock fall prey to tigers. Retaliatory action by villagers can result in the killing of tigers.

“With so much deforestation and poaching in Sumatra, wild tigers face a very difficult future, but we have the tools available to reverse their decline if the clearance of their forest can be halted.” 

Dr. Barney Long Asian Species Expert

What WWF Is Doing

Antipoaching and Conflict Mitigation Efforts

WWF works to decrease Sumatran tiger poaching incidents and helps law enforcement officers increase surveillance. WWF Tiger Protection Units patrol vulnerable areas, gather intelligence against wildlife crime, and help keep forests safe by removing poachers' traps and snares. The units have eliminated or drastically reduced poaching where they operate. They also respond to reports of human-tiger conflict and captured tigers, and educate communities about how to live with tigers.

Influencing Land-Use Planning

WWF helps design land-use plans that incorporate critical wildlife habitat. Sumatra’s district and provincial governments are integrating this information into their plans, including zoning decisions and concessions for economic activities. Along with WWF’s efforts to improve the palm, pulp and paper, and timber industries’ impact on the island’s biodiversity, this work helps Sumatra balance environmental realities with people’s social and economic needs.

Protecting Tiger Habitat

WWF successfully lobbied corporate partners and the Indonesian state government to declare the Tesso Nilo tiger landscape a protected area in 2004. It is most likely the last remaining block of lowland tropical rainforest for tigers in Sumatra. Using the momentum of the Year of the Tiger in 2010, WWF pushed for six priority landscapes for tigers to be included in the National Tiger Recovery Program, which was adopted as a global program by 13 tiger range countries.

Monitoring Tigers

Sumatran Tigers

Camera trap used to obtain images of Sumatran tigers

WWF is undertaking groundbreaking research on tigers in central Sumatra. Using camera traps to estimate population size and distribution as well as habitat use, we identify wildlife corridors that require protection across the central Sumatra tiger landscape.

Projects

  • Photos from Camera Traps in Indonesia

    On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, WWF collaborates with the Riau Forestry Department to use camera traps to help determine which species are present and absent from the region.

  • Camera Trap Video of Sumatran Tiger Cubs

    Video cameras installed in the Sumatran jungle have captured close-up footage of a tiger and two cubs. This is  the first time that WWF has recorded evidence of tiger breeding in central Sumatra in what should be prime tiger habitat.

Experts

Related Species

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