Sumatran Tiger – Critically Endangered – 500 left

Sumatran Tigers are the only subspecies of tiger not found on the Eurasian continental mainland and are also the smallest and the rarest of all tiger subspecies. Adult males can reach 2,5m and 140kg and females 2m and 90kg. The Sumatran Tiger feeds mostly on wild pigs, muntjac and sambar deer. It is solitary animal with a home range measuring 52 square km for a male and half that for the female. It lives for about fifteen years in the wild. The gestation period of pregnant tigress is 103 days she normally gives birth to two or three cubs and could go up to six.

Image of sumatran tiger in rainforest in Sumatra

The ideal Sumatrans Tiger population would have a ratio of one male to three females. This ratio creates the best population mix for cubs to be born. The tigress alone protects and cares for her young for the first few months of the cubs’ lives. She leaves her young for only short periods of time to drink and hunt. Tigresses will spend most of their time nursing their cubs in the first few days following birth. The cubs learn to hunt from their mother.

It is thought that Sumatran Tigers became isolated on Sumatra from other tiger populations on the mainland after a rise in sea level that occurred during the Pleistocene to Holocene period about 12,000 to 6,000 years ago.

The Sumatran Tiger is endemic to the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Two other subspecies of tigers roamed Indonesian forests, the Bali Tiger and the Javan Tiger. The Bali Tiger was brought to extinction in the 1940s and the Javan Tiger in the 1980s. The prime habitat of the Sumatran Tiger is lowland and hill forests. Human intrusion has pushed it to higher altitudes, even above 3,000 metres. The habitat at this high altitude can maintain no more than 10% of the population numbers that could otherwise thrive in lower forest territory.

Image of land cleared of rainforest in Sumatra, home of the Sumatran Tiger

40% of the lowland forests in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo were cleared by humans in the fifteen years between 1990 and 2005.

Cutting and burning of forests started in the early 1900s to make way for the cultivation of coffee and oil drilling in Northern Sumatra. More forests areas were later cleared for the pulp & paper industry. More recently since the 1980s large swathes of forest were felled to make way for the industrial farming of oil palms for the palm oil industry. Palm oil is found in half of the processed food that you eat.

A Greenpeace 2018 report titled “Dying for a Cookie” explains how twelve brands are using palm oil from 20 suppliers that are all allegedly at fault for destroying the rainforests in Indonesia. Those that are cited as using the tainted palm oil product are: Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Hershey, Kellogg’s, Kraft Heinz, L’Oreal, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Reckitt Benckiser and Unilever.

The report found a total of 25 palm oil suppliers had cleared more than 130,000 hectares of rainforest since the end of 2015. That is an area almost twice the size of Singapore that has been destroyed in less than three years.

The Sumatran Tiger has been listed as critically endangered by the IUCN since 1994 and it is a protected animal by Indonesian law since 1990.

Deforestation is the main cause behind the decline of the Sumatran Tiger as this creates habitat loss and habitat fragmentation. The impact of forest clearing on wildlife in Sumatra is particularly devastating as it takes place mostly in lowland forests for reason that this land is the most suitable for conversion to agriculture. This has a catastrophic impact on biodiversity as this kind of forest has the largest variety and density of animal species and of Sumatran Tigers.

Image of Sumatran Tiger, mother and cub

As humans encroach more and more on historic tiger territory, with human settlements and agriculture, instances of human-tiger conflicts increase. Tigers are left to survive in a smaller and shrinking forest mass. This multiplies their contact with people as the tigers find themselves displaced. Wild tigers attack villagers, regularly, injuring and killing them, and prey on their livestock. We leave these tigers very few options as they have nowhere to retreat to and no means of adapting to the human invasion.

Despite being a protected species, Sumatran Tigers are regularly killed by poachers. They get caught in snares laid out for bush meat or killed by villagers seeking revenge. Poachers are the main threat to the Sumatran Tigers with 45 tigers killed annually between the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In around 1850 the population of Sumatran Tigers may have been over 1000 individuals. It has been estimated that there was a population of 742 adult Sumatran Tigers in 2000 and a population of 618 adult tigers in 2012. A 2016 population assessment carried out by the Indonesian government estimated the population of wild tigers to be 604 individuals spread over 23 locations. A single population of tigers is considered to be sustainable if there are more than 25 females in the particular forest area. Only two such areas exist in Sumatra today with another three hosting just below the critical number of females.

Some tigers also exist in captivity in Sumatra at rehabilitation conservation centres having been taken there after being rescued from traps and snares or captured to protect human settlements. There are some Sumatrans Tigers held in zoos outside Indonesia.

We must be mindful of the fact that extinction is forever. Once gone the Sumatran Tiger will be lost for all time. Thoughts of bringing back extinct species using preserved DNA, are arrogant and delusional. The tigers contribute towards a healthy forest ecosystem that helps to support life on Earth. We owe all other species on Earth a debt of gratitude and allegiance for their contribution to the creation of this hospitable Earth environment into which we were born, from which we have emerged and to which we shall return.



Main Source; The Spice Route End 

Related article: How Species Become Extinct

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