|Subspecies:||P. t. sumatrae|
|Panthera tigris sumatrae
The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is a rare tiger subspecies that inhabits the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It was classified as critically endangered by IUCN in 2008 as the population was estimated at 441 to 679 individuals, with no subpopulation larger than 50 individuals and a declining trend.
The Sumatran tiger is the only surviving member of the Sunda Islands group of tigers that included the now extinct Bali tiger and Javan tiger. Sequences from complete mitochondrial genes of 34 tigers support the hypothesis that Sumatran tigers are diagnostically distinct from mainland populations.
Pocock first described the Sumatran tiger on the basis of several skull, pelage and striping features in which it is distinct from the Indian and Javan tigers. It is darker in fur colour and has thicker stripes than the Javan tiger. Stripes tend to disintegrate into spots near their ends, and lines of small dark specks between regular stripes may be found on the back, flanks and hind legs. The frequency of stripes is higher than in other subspecies.
Males have a prominent ruff, which is especially marked in the Sumatran tiger.
The Sumatran tiger is one of the smallest tiger subspecies. Males weigh 100 to 140 kg (220 to 310 lb) and measure 2.2 to 2.25 m (87 to 89 in) in length between the pegs with a greatest length of skull of 295 to 335 mm (11.6 to 13.2 in). Females weigh 75 to 110 kg (165 to 243 lb) and measure 215 to 230 cm (85 to 91 in) in length between the pegs with a greatest length of skull of 263 to 294 mm (10.4 to 11.6 in).
Distribution and habitat
Sumatran tigers persist in isolated populations across Sumatra. They occupy a wide array of habitats, ranging from sea level in the coastal lowland forest of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on the southeastern tip of Lampung Province to 3,200 m (10,500 ft) in mountain forests of Gunung Leuser National Park in Aceh Province. They have been repeatedly photographed at 2,600 m (8,500 ft) in a rugged region of northern Sumatra, and are present in 27 habitat patches larger than 250 km2 (97 sq mi).
In 1978, the Sumatran tiger population was estimated at 1,000 individuals, based on responses to a questionnaire survey. In 1985, a total of 26 protected areas across Sumatra containing approximately 800 tigers were identified. In 1992, it was estimated that 400–500 tigers lived in five national parks and 2 protected areas. At the time, the largest population was reported from the Gunung Leuser National Park as comprising 110 to 180 individuals. However, a more recent study shows that the Kerinci Seblat National Park in central Sumatra has the highest population of tigers on the island, estimated to be at 165–190 individuals. The park also was shown to have the highest tiger occupancy rate of the protected areas, with 83% of the park showing signs of tigers. In fact, there are more tigers in the Kerinci Seblat National Park than in all of Nepal, and more than in China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam combined.
Ecology and behaviour
Sumatran tigers strongly prefer forest and use plantations of acacia and oil palm far less than their availability. Within natural forest areas they tend to use areas with higher elevation, lower annual rainfall, farther from forest edge, and closer to forest centres. They prefer forest with dense understory cover and steep slope, and they strongly avoid forest areas with high human influence in the forms of encroachment and settlement. In acacia plantations they tend to use areas closer to water, and prefer areas with older plants, more leaf litter and thicker sub-canopy cover. They avoid areas with high human activity. Tiger records in oil palm plantations and in rubber plantations are scarce. The availability of adequate vegetation cover at the ground level serves as an environmental condition fundamentally needed by tigers regardless of the location. Without adequate understory cover, tigers are even more vulnerable to persecution by humans. Human disturbance related variables negatively affect tiger occupancy and habitat use. Variables with strong impacts include settlement and encroachment within forest areas, logging and the intensity of maintenance in acacia plantations. Camera trapping surveys conducted in southern Riau revealed an extremely low abundance of potential prey and a low tiger density in peat swamp forest areas. Repeated sampling in the newly established Tesso Nilo National Park documented a trend of increasing tiger density from 0.90 individuals per 100 km2 (39 sq mi) in 2005 to 1.70 individuals per 100 km2 (39 sq mi) in 2008.
In the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, nine prey species larger than 1 kg (2.2 lb) of body weight were identified including Great Argus Pheasant, Pigtail Macaque, porcupine, Malay tapir, wild pig, Greater and Lesser mouse-deer, muntjac and Sambar deer.
Tigers need large contiguous forest blocks to thrive. Between 1985 and 1999, forest loss within Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park averaged 2% per year. A total of 661 km2 (255 sq mi) of forest disappeared inside the park, and 318 km2 (123 sq mi) were lost in a 10-km buffer, eliminating forest outside the park. Lowland forest disappeared faster than montane forest, and forests on gentle slopes disappeared faster than forests on steep slopes. Most forest conversion resulted from agricultural development, leading to predictions that by 2010 70% of the park will be in agriculture. Camera-trap data indicated avoidance of forest boundaries by tigers. Classification of forest into core and peripheral forest based on mammal distribution suggests that by 2010, core forest area for tigers will be fragmented and reduced to 20% of remaining forest.
Despite being given full protection in Indonesia and internationally, tiger parts are still found openly in trade in Sumatra. In 2006, surveys were conducted over a seven month period in 28 cities in seven Sumatran provinces and nine seaports. A total of 326 retail outlets were surveyed, and 33 (10%) were found to have tiger parts for sale, including skins, canines, bones and whiskers. Tiger bones demanded the highest average price of US$ 116 per kg, followed by canines. There is evidence that tiger parts are smuggled out of Indonesia. In July 2005, over 140 kg of tiger bones and 24 skulls were confiscated in Taiwan in a shipment from Jakarta.
In 1994, the Indonesian Sumatran Tiger Conservation Strategy addressed the potential crisis that tigers faced in Sumatra. The Sumatran Tiger Project (STP) was initiated in June 1995 in and around the Way Kambas National Park in order to ensure the long-term viability of wild Sumatran tigers and to accumulate data on tiger life-history characteristics vital for the management of wild populations. By August 1999, the teams of the STP had evaluated 52 sites of potential tiger habitat in Lampung Province, of which only 15 these were intact enough to contain tigers. In the framework of the STP a community-based conservation programme was initiated to document the tiger-human dimension in the park in order to enable conservation authorities to resolve tiger-human conflicts based on a comprehensive database rather than anecdotes and opinions.
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 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. One hectare of 186 hectares of Taman Safari is the world's only Sumatran tiger captive breeding center which has also sperm bank.
An 110,000 acre conservation area and rehabilitation center, Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation, has been set up on the edge of a national park on the southern tip of Sumatra (Lampung). On October 26, 2011, a tigress who had been captured with an injured leg in early October delivered three male cubs in a temporary cage, while waiting for release after her recovery.
On Feb 3, 2014 three Sumatran tiger cubs were born to a five year old tigress in London Zoo, in the Zoo's Tiger Territory; a £3.6m project to encourage endangered subspecies of tiger to breed.
Analysis of DNA is consistent with the hypothesis that Sumatran tigers have been isolated from other tiger populations after a rise in sea level that occurred 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 to each other.
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