The End of the Wild Sumatran Tiger

The Sumatran tiger is so critically endangered that its population has been cut in half over the last 25 years due to poaching and deforestation. There are only about 400-500 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, and at least 40-50 are killed due to poaching every single year. If things keep going at this rate, they could be extinct in the next 20-25 years. Action needs to be taken to save these creatures.

About the Sumatran Tiger:

The Sumatran tiger is the only tiger with such close stripes and it has more hair around its face and neck than other tigers. And although the tiger is the biggest in the cat family, the Sumatran tiger is the smallest species, with males that only get up to 300 pounds whereas other species can get up to almost 600. It’s average length is about 8 feet long. The reason for the close stripes and small size is believed to be due to the fact that they live in a habitat full of high grass and the close stripes help them blend in, and their habitat is smaller than other tigers’ and their prey is smaller as well, so having a leaner body is necessary.

Sumatran tigers chase their prey into water because they have webbing between their toes that makes them incredible swimmers, so they’re able to take out prey in the water that they may not be able to overcome on land. They also confuse their prey with “eye spots,” which are white spots on the back of their ears that animals mistake for actual eyes.

According to Smithsonian’s National Zoo, tigers communicate by rubbing heads, grunting, and roaring. Scent marks and visual signs like scratches allow tigers to track  and identify each other. Female tigers are aware of other females whose territories are close by. Mother and daughter tigers usually live close together; the daughters tend to take up territories not too far away. The Smithsonian National Zoo says, “All tigers can identify passing strangers. So, solitary tigers actually have a rich social life; they just prefer to socialize from a distance.”

Also according to the zoo, the tiger’s lifespan is between 10-15 years in the wild, and 20 when they’re in human care. Most don’t live to see 12 years though. Only half live long enough to become independent from their mothers, and “only 40 percent live to establish a territory and begin to produce young.”

What’s Being Done to Protect Them:

According to CNN, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and its partners are using camera traps and other tools to estimate the population distribution across Sumatra. Since, like human fingerprints, no two tigers have identical stripes, the camera traps help researchers gather more precise data on individual tigers. Understanding the distribution of the tigers allows scientists and forestry officials to designate protected areas and helps them better understand where to best patrol against poaching. WWF has Tiger Protection Units that patrol vulnerable areas and gather intelligence about poachers and also remove deadly poachers’ snares and “in places where they operate, poaching has dramatically declined.” Check out CNN’s full article here.

It can feel hopeless sometimes learning about yet another critically endangered species, especially when you don’t know of a way to help. But there are things you can do, even if you don’t have money to donate. WWF has several different suggestions for ways you can help. Check them out here. Something needs to be done or we’re going to lose another species of tigers. Please do anything you can to help them.

Photo courtesy of Tony Hisgett.

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