- Status: Critically Endangered
- Known as: Sumatran Tiger.
- Estimated numbers left in the wild: 440 to 680.
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The Sumatran tiger is, in many ways, a typical tiger in appearance, with striking orange fur striped with black above and white underside. However, it is slightly smaller than other tiger subspecies, and males have a distinctive, prominent ruff of fur around their necks, though this bears no resemblance to a lion’s mane.
Males are larger than females, measuring 2 to 2.25 meters long and weighing up to 140 kilograms. Females weigh 75 to 110 kilograms and are approximately the same length, though more lightly built.
The size and physical features of Sumatran tigers are adapted to the region where they live. Their smaller size gives them greater agility for traversing the thick jungle of their homeland.
Their paws are slightly webbed to assist with swimming, a major advantage thanks to the abundance of water in Sumatra. They will even live in peat swamps, where swimming after prey is often a necessity.
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Sumatran tigers prey on deer and wild boar naturally and feed on local humans’ goats and cattle.
These tigers can have up to five cubs at a time, which stay with the female for around a year and a half before striking out independently. An independent species’ relatively fast reproductive rate is likely one factor enabling its survival in such unfavorable conditions.
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The Sumatran Tiger is found in scattered locations in Sumatra. The species prefers jungle or forest but is found at many different heights above sea level, ranging from the shore to high mountain forests. The species need large tracts of continuous woodland.
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Habitat loss is a major hazard for the future of this rare tiger species. Acacia plantations and oil palm plantations are encroaching on their habitat as the jungle is cleared to make way for these commercial trees. Fragmentation is ongoing, and the tigers may soon be confined to just one-fifth of the surviving forest.
One of the specific companies causing habitat destruction in the Sumatran tiger’s last refuge is Kentucky Fried Chicken, whose napkins and food containers are made from paper derived from clear-cutting of crucial portions of the Sumatran jungle.
Sumatran tigers are also poached for their body parts, in part thanks to lax protective measures. Tiger skulls, bones, canine teeth, whiskers, and skins all fetch good prices in Sumatra and are smuggled abroad as well.
Conservation attempts were also hampered by political unrest and violence, though a more normalized situation has allowed them to resume since.
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Efforts to save this rare tiger have been spearheaded by the Sumatran Tiger Project, which has been active in the area since the mid-1990s. National parks and special conservation areas have been set up in a cooperative project involving the Indonesian Forest Ministry and the Australia Zoo.
Greenpeace and other organizations are fighting the jungle clearing that is going on to supply Kentucky Fried Chicken and other companies with paper.
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Panthera is an American-based organization. Their main focus is to conserve the world’s largest wild cats, including the Sumatran Tiger, by supporting research and education programs in different countries.
The Sumatran Tiger Trust
The Sumatran Tiger Trust works to protect Sumatran Tigers in Indonesia through research, habitat preservation, anti-poaching patrols, the training of park rangers, and supplying them with the necessary equipment.