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Sumatran tiger

Latin name: Panthera tigris sumatrae

Areas: | Indonesia |

IUCN Red List conservation status

About: Sumatran tiger

“In the last three years we have seen clear indications of a recovery in tiger populations in areas where our Tiger Protection & Conservation Units patrol. Undercover investigations by rangers followed by successful law enforcement is a clear and effective deterrent to wildlife criminals.”

Debbie Martyr

Fauna & Flora International Team Leader of Kerinci Tiger Project

There are around 500 Sumatran tigers existing in the wild.

Smallest of all the tigers, its stripes are narrower than in other tiger subspecies and it has a more bearded and maned appearance.

Sumatran tiger facts:

  • They are generally very shy and seek to avoid people
  • Sumatran tigers hunt wild boar and deer species but will take other prey opportunistically
  • Sumatran tigers are the smallest of the tiger subspecies and can weigh up to 140kg
  • Kerinci Seblat National Park and the Ulu Masen and Leuser ecosystems of Aceh are two global priority areas for tiger conservation

Credit: Matt Linkie/FFI

One of the main threats to Sumatran tigers is poaching.

Hunters trap or shoot them for their skin and bones, which are in high demand in Asian traditional medicine while there is still demand for skins both in Indonesia and overseas.

Habitat loss due to expansion of oil palm plantations, acacia plantations and smallholder encroachment also threaten these big cats.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been conserving tigers and other threatened wildlife, such as clouded leopards and elephants, in Sumatra for over 20 years.

We work in the three major landscapes of Kerinci Seblat National Park (1.4 million ha), Aceh (3.5 million ha) and, since 2013, Riau (0.5 million ha). In combination, these forests contain more than 60% of all wild Sumatran tigers.

Success here is therefore critical for the tiger’s long-term survival.

Encouragingly, in many places where the FFI-supported forest rangers have focused their efforts, tigers are no longer declining, but are now breeding, as witnessed though recurrent records of tiger cubs.

Credit: Matt Linkie/FFI

To conserve tigers, FFI applies its tried and tested best practice strategies through:

Robust law enforcement

FFI has trained more than 500 dedicated national park and community forest rangers who conduct anti-poaching forest patrols, often informed by a carefully cultivated network of local informants.

These teams have removed more than 5,500 tiger/prey snare traps.

The informant network is key in investigating and arresting tiger poachers and traders and FFI’s police partners have arrested and prosecuted 38 tiger poachers/traders.

FFI has also set up a local network in for recording and reporting illegal logging that has led to the arrest and then prosecution of 138 illegal loggers.

Credit: Matt Linkie/FFI

Human-tiger conflict mitigation

Tigers, especially young transients looking to establish their own home range, occasionally wander out of the forest and into farmland.

Usually the tiger simply passes through and safely returns back to the forest.

Sometimes it will take a goat or a dog and on a rare occasion attack a person.

Key to addressing local concerns and preventing the retaliatory killing of a real or perceived problem tiger is a swift response from the conservation teams.

FFI has established rapid response units that have responded to 158 incidents of human-tiger conflict and undoubtedly prevented many unnecessary killings and captures of wild tigers.

On occasion, tigers are caught in snare traps and FFI rapidly mobilises veterinary support to care for the tiger, with a primary aim of releasing a fully recovered animal back into the wild when ready.

Credit: Matt Linkie/FFI

Population monitoring

To assess the impact of the conservation management intervention by FFI and partners, we set remotely activated camera traps in the forest to obtain information on tiger population trends.

Further, in 2008, FFI was a main protagonist in an NGO consortium that partnered with the Ministry of Forestry in conducting a ground breaking Sumatra-wide tiger survey.

This survey of indirect tiger sign compiled the most up-to-date and most reliable dataset on the Sumatran tiger’s status.

The results demonstrated the pernicious threat posed by deforestation but also provided hope as tigers were found to still be fairly widespread.

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Did you know?

Kerinci Seblat National Park is one of the few protected areas in Asia where, park-wide, tiger encounter records have stabilised since 2007 and are now increasing.

This is due to the improved protection by the FFI-supported Tiger Protection & Conservation Programme.

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