The world’s smallest tiger is heading towards extinction

The Sumatran tiger, also known as the Sunda tiger, once lived in Indonesia wandering the Sunda Islands. Today, between 400 and 500 individuals of this critically endangered tiger subspecies are concentrated only in the forests of Sumatra, a large island in western Indonesia.

Sumatra is also the only place on earth where tigers, rhinos, orangutans and elephants – the most threatened animals on Earth – live together in the wild. If this impressive subspecies continues to experience continued habitat loss and rampant poaching, it is a threat not only to the survival of the species, but also to the region’s fragile biodiversity levels.

On March 29, a Sumatran tiger cub appeared at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia.


Although most of the remaining range is isolated in protected tiger conservation landscapes and national parks, the global population of Sumatran tigers is believed to be increasing by 3.2 per year % to a 5.9% speed reduction. In addition to human-wildlife conflict, the Sumatran tiger is primarily threatened by illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss.


Sumatran tigers are illegally hunted for their whiskers, teeth, bones and claws to be used as decorative jewelry and souvenirs. Sumatran tiger deaths are often blamed on poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, although Sumatran has stepped up tiger protection measures and banned the trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

The Bukit Barisan Seratan National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia, designated a 386-square-mile forest to assess the main threats to the Sumatran tiger—it is estimated that The density is 2.8 per 38 square miles, and the prey is abundant. The researchers observed large numbers of people entering the park illegally, with 20 percent of the incidents involving armed poachers operating primarily at night to avoid daytime law enforcement patrols.

Habitat loss

Since the 1980s, the entire land of Sumatra has been used for agriculture, palm oil plantations, illegal logging and urban development. In fact, from 1985 to 2014, the island’s forest cover fell from 58 percent to 26 percent. Forest conversion further separates and isolates tiger populations, which require large areas of land to breed and feed successfully.

A 2017 study found tiger densities in primary forests were 47% higher than in degraded forests due to forest loss, with tiger populations in Sunda declining from 2000 to 2012 up 16.6%. The study estimates that only two populations with more than 30 breeding females remain in their native range.

Human-Wildlife Conflict

Human-tiger conflict occurs when tigers are forced out of protected areas and into human-inhabited areas due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. Likewise, when prey numbers dwindle, tigers are more likely to venture onto farms and developed lands in search of other food sources. If hungry tigers end up killing livestock, farmers may retaliate to protect their assets.

To discover the main drivers behind Sumatran human-tiger conflict, researchers at the University of Kent combined encounter risk with information on tiger tolerance levels among more than 2,000 Sumatrans . People’s tolerance levels are related to underlying attitudes, emotions, social norms and spiritual beliefs, while the study found that the risk of encountering a tiger was greater around densely populated villages than in adjacent forests and rivers connecting tiger habitats.

What can we do

While memories of the extinction of similar subspecies such as the Javan and Bali tigers are remembered, there is hope for the Sumatran tiger. Across the island, steps have been taken to ensure their survival.

protect their habitat

Conservation of the few remaining landscapes where the Sumatran tiger thrives is critical to the survival of the Sumatran tiger subspecies. This includes not only protecting the land itself by establishing protected areas in areas with the highest densities of tigers and available predators, but supporting legislation to address illegal poaching, logging and encroachment on tiger habitat.

Organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature are working to enhance priority habitats in Sumatra, including Leu Lumasen, Clinch Sebrat, Berbak San Bilang and Bukit Parisan Saratan. Together, these areas cover more than 26,641 square miles and account for 76 percent of the remaining Sumatran tiger habitat and more than 70 percent of the total remaining Sumatran tiger population.

Research and Monitoring

< p data-track="22">Researchers and conservationists continue to conduct scientific research on the critically endangered Sumatran tiger to improve conservation strategies and identify subpopulations or habitats. Satellite data is especially important as it helps monitor changes in forest cover in tiger habitat to combat further efforts to convert land suitable for tigers to other uses.

Wildlife rangers and other law enforcement agencies can also help increase monitoring and enforcement of illegal tiger parts.

In 2016, wildlife researchers used data from Global Forest Watch to measure habitat loss in 76 high-priority tiger habitats over the past 14 years. They found that landscape monitoring and conservation strategies helped tiger populations recover, with much less forest loss than previously estimated; between 2001 and 2014, 7.7 percent of tiger habitat was lost — less than 30,888 square meters — due to deforestation mile.

Reduce human-tiger conflict

In Sumatra, where many local people rely on livestock as an important source of income and food, farmers routinely hunt and kill tigers they consider a possible threat to their farms. Keeping critically endangered species safe depends largely on maintaining sustainable livelihoods for the humans who share this landscape.

The study, conducted by the University of Kent, also found that pre-emptive intervention using socioeconomic projections based on the study could have prevented 51% of livestock and human attack (rescue 15 tigers).

Working with local communities to raise awareness of the importance of tigers to local ecosystems, adopting livestock A practical approach to conflict with Sumatran tigers. There are also more immediate approaches, such as building tiger-proof livestock enclosures and creating buffer zones between urban areas and tiger habitat, that can have positive effects.

The Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Program are working with local villages to implement effective measures to prevent conflict between Sumatran people and tigers. They have introduced a number of interventions through a series of projects based on four Sumatran tiger management landscapes within the national park, including human-wildlife conflict mitigation training for local government staff, veterinarians and local communities. Between 2017 and 2019, 11 tiger-proof enclosures were established to protect livestock, while several wildlife conflict mitigation teams were formed to help monitor and manage conflict in their respective areas.