Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is a subspecies of tiger found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Recent genetic testing has revealed the presence of unique genetic markers, which isolate Sumatran tigers from all mainland subspecies. About 400-500 wild Sumatran tigers were believed to exist in 1998, but their numbers have continued to decline.
The Sumatran Tiger is the smallest of all surviving tiger subspecies. Male Sumatran tigers average 204 cm (6 feet, 8 inches) in length from head to tail and weigh about 136 kg (300 lb). Females average 198 cm (6 feet, 6 inches) in length and weigh about 91 kg (200 lb).Its stripes are narrower than other subspecies of tigers' stripes, and it has a more bearded and maned appearance, especially the males. Its small size makes it easier to move through dense rain forests. It has webbing between its toes that, when spread, makes Sumatran tigers very fast swimmers. It has been known to drive hoofed prey into the water, especially if the prey animal is a slow swimmer.
Sumatran Tigers commonly prey on larger ungulates, like Wild Boar, Malayan Tapir and deer, and sometimes also smaller animals, like fowl, monkeys, and fish. Orangutans could be prey, but since they spend a minimal amount of time on the ground, tigers rarely catch one. Sumatran tigers will sometimes prey upon mice and other small mammals when larger prey is scarce.
Genetics and evolution
Analysis of DNA is consistent with the hypothesis that the Sumatran Tigers have been isolated from other tiger populations after a rise in sea level at the Pleistocene to Holocene border (about 12,000-6,000 years ago). In agreement with this evolutionary history, the Sumatran Tiger is genetically isolated from all living mainland tigers, which form a distinct group, closely related among each other.
The Sumatran tiger is only found naturally in Sumatra, a large island in western Indonesia. Its habitat ranges from lowland forests to sub-mountain and mountain-forests, including peat swamp forests. Much of its habitat is unprotected, with only about 400 living in game reserves and national parks. The largest population of about 110 tigers lives in Gunung Leuser National Park. Another 100 live in unprotected areas which are being converted for agriculture.
Deforestation resulting from the production of palm oil is a major threat to the Sumatran Tiger. The reserves also do not provide safety, as many tigers are killed by poachers each year despite conservation efforts. According to the Tiger Information Centre and the World Wildlife Fund there are no more than 500 remaining Sumatran Tigers in the wild, with some estimates considerably lower.
The continuing loss of habitat is intensifying the crisis to save this tiger.
In 2006 the Indonesia Forestry Service, the Natural Resources and Conservational Agency (BKSDA) and the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program sat down with commercial concession holders and Asia Pulp & Paper and set the foundations for the Senepis Buluhala Tiger Sanctuary, an area that covered 106,000 hectares in Riau by 2008. These organizations formed The Tiger Conservation Working Group with other interested parties and the project is recognised as a pioneering initiative. Current studies include the identifying of feeding behavior of tigers to develop strategies that will help protect both tigers and human settlements.
In 2007, the Indonesian Forestry Ministry and Safari Park established cooperation with the Australia Zoo for the conservation of Sumatran Tigers and other endangered species. The cooperation agreement was marked by the signing of a Letter of Intent on 'Sumatran Tiger and other Endangered Species Conservation Program and the Establishment of a Sister Zoo Relationship between Taman Safari and Australia Zoo' at the Indonesian Forestry Ministry office on July 31, 2007. The program includes conserving Sumatran Tigers and other endangered species in the wild, efforts to reduce conflicts between tigers and humans and rehabilitating Sumatran Tigers and reintroducing them to their natural habitat.
- ^ Cat Specialist Group (1996). Panthera tigris ssp. sumatrae. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this subspecies is critically endangered and the criteria used.
- ^ a b Cracraft J., Feinstein J., Vaughn J., Helm-Bychowski K. (1998). "Sorting out tigers (Panthera tigris) Mitochondrial sequences, nuclear inserts, systematics, and conservation genetics". Animal Conservation 1: 139–150. doi:10.1111/j.1469-1795.1998.tb00021.x.
- ^ Save the Tiger Fund
- ^ United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (2007). Forest products annual market review 2006-2007. United Nations Publications. pp. 93. ISBN 9789211169713.
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