Sumatran Tiger Population On The Road To Recovery

Conservation efforts have helped increase the population of critically endangered Sumatran tigers, according to scientists in Indonesia.

AsianScientist (Nov. 3, 2017) – Scientists report that the Sumatran tiger population is increasing, highlighting the success of conservation efforts on the island of Sumatra, located west of Java, Indonesia. Their work is published in Oryx.

Living only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, Panthera tigris sumatrae, is the only extant sub-species of ‘Island tigers’, which includes the now-extinct Javan and Bali tiger. This sub-species is genetically distinct from the other six sub-species of continental tigers.

Sumatran tigers face many challenges to their continued existence in the wild, where they require a home range of 25,000 hectares. The big cats are being poached for their skin, bones and other body parts, and are struggling with habitat loss and a depleted prey base.

In this study, researchers in Indonesia set 123 PantheraCam camera traps over a 1,000 km2 forest block located in a protection zone specially designated by the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park Authority to improve park protection and aid in the recovery of flagship species.

Results of the camera-trap study showed a Sumatran tiger population density increase to 2.8 tigers/100 km2 (2015) from 1.6 tigers/100 km2 (2002). Furthermore, the proportion of male and female tigers recently recorded was 1:3.

“This ratio indicates that the tiger population in the National Park is in a healthy condition and breeding opportunity exists for many females within the areas we surveyed,” said lead author Ms. Wulan Pusparini, Species Conservation Specialist of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). “Our study not only looked at population condition, but also used the photographs to assess the threat of people illegally entering the park.”

“The tiger population increase can’t be separated from our efforts to maintain this area through ranger patrols,” said Mr. Timbul Batubara of the Bukit Barisan National Park who is a co-author of the study. “With support from WCS and other partners, we conducted patrols in and around the park to remove tiger and prey snare traps and prevent habitat encroachment.”

WCS-Indonesia Country Director and co-author of the paper, Dr. Noviar Andayani added that the increasing population of the Sumatran tigers is a dream come true for all conservationists in Indonesia.

”I appreciate the work of the park authority and our field team for their efforts in not only protecting tigers and their habitat, but also collecting robust research data to demonstrate this trend and ensure that in the coming years, the UNESCO Tropical Heritage of Sumatra can be removed from the ‘in danger list’,” she said.

The article can be found at: Pusparini et al. (2017)A Pathway to Recovery: the Critically Endangered Sumatran Tiger Panthera tigris sumatrae in an ‘In Danger’ UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Source: Wildlife Conservation Society; Photo: Pixabay.
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