Sumatran tiger – original photograph, digitally accented. Captive animal.
*Name: Panthera tigris sumatrae (Sumatran Tiger)
Description: The Sumatran tiger has the darkest coat of all tigers. Its broad, black stripes are closely spaced and often doubled. Unlike the Siberian tiger, it has striped forelegs. Sumatran tigers are the smallest tiger subspecies. Males average 2.4 meters (8 feet) in length from head to tail and weigh about 120 kilograms (264 pounds). Females measure approximately 2.2 meters (7 feet) in length and weigh about 90 kilograms (198 pounds).
Distribution: The Sumatran tiger is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in habitat that ranges from lowland forest to submontain and montain forest with some peat-moss forest.
Biology: The Sumatran tiger eats wild pig, big deer (called rusa), and small deer (called muntjak or barking deer). The specific range size of this tiger is not know, however the population density is approximately 4–5 adult tigers/100 km 2 (39 mile 2) in optimal lowland rainforest. As elevation increases through submontain and montain forests, the number of tigers in any given area decreases because there is less prey available.
Status in the wild: 400-500 wild Sumatran tigers were believed to exist in 1998, primarily in the island’s national park areas, but no island-wide census or monitoring system has been possible. Tiger numbers have continued to decline because of poaching of tigers to supply the illegal trade in tiger parts. The last remnants of lowland forest are being eliminated to establish oil palm plantations and for shifting agriculture by recent settlers from other areas of Sumatra and Indonesia. Ongoing road development makes many formerly inaccessible mountain areas accessible to illegal logging even on the steepest slopes, and many mountainous areas are being converted into plantations for coffee and other products for international markets. Tigers are legally protected but are not highly valued.
Captive breeding: For three years, the Indonesian Zoological Parks’ Association (PKBSI) has been working with the Tiger Global Conservation Strategy to develop a conservation program for Sumatran tigers. In addition to the 65 Sumatran tigers living in Indonesian zoos, there are 55 tigers managed by North American zoos, 100 in European zoos, and 12 in Australasian zoos. This captive population is descended from 37 wild-caught founders.
The Indonesian Sumatran Tiger Masterplan now has the potential to function as the heart of the Sumatran tiger population worldwide. It is designed to preserve sufficient genetic diversity to reinforce both captive and wild populations, thus fulfilling its goal to ensure that the in situ tiger program comprises verifiable founders permanently identified and registered in the Indonesian Sumatran Tiger Studbook. It also extends the capabilities of Indonesian zoo staff to professionally manage their tiger programs in Indonesia, and at the same time serves as a model for other range country tiger management programs in Southeast Asia.*