The Sumatran Tiger is the smallest of the surviving subspecies of tiger and are classified as critically endangered, with numbers as low as 400.
These Tigers are predominately solitary animals that live on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in lowland forests that extend through to the mountain forests.
The fur of the Sumatran Tiger appears orange to reddish brown and its underside white. Webbing between their toes makes them very fast swimmers.
Being the smallest of the tiger family, it moves with ease through the dense growth of the jungle forests.
Males can reach a length of 2.4 meters (head to tail) and weigh approx 120kg. The female is smaller reaching a length of 2.2 meters and weighs in around the 90kg.
Threats to Survival
The Sumatran Tiger is considered to be critically endangered. The two major threats to the survival of the Sumatran Tiger are habitat destruction and poaching.
The rapid agricultural growth on the island of Sumatra has reduced the area of habitat available to he tiger. The encroachment by villages has increased the contact between the tiger and humans resulting in many tigers being killed.
Tigers are illegally poached to support the trade in tiger products. Tigers are hunted for their body parts for use in Traditional medicine, for their pelts and as trophies.
Distribution & Habitat
The Sumatran Tiger lives in lowland forest to sub-mountain and mountain forest where there is minimal human disturbance. The remaining tigers are distributed in fragmented pockets throughout the island. Of the 400 tigers still alive, most can be found in five national parks and two game reserves on the island of Sumatra.
The largest populations of Sumatran Tiger can be found in the Gunuag Leuser National Park. Some are still living in unprotected forested areas; however these are more open to poaching.
The Sumatran Tiger is a predominantly solitary animal. Females live alone or with their cubs in territories neighbouring with other females. The males are completely solitary and have territories that may overlap several female territories. The males take no part in the rearing of their cubs.
The Sumatran Tiger reaches maturity at approximately four years of age and has a life span of about 15 years. Mating can occur at anytime throughout the year; however it is typically during winter to spring. After a gestation period of about 100 days the female may give birth to as many as four cubs. The cubs are born with their eyes closed and do not open them until they are about two to three weeks old. For the first eight weeks the cubs will drink their mother’s milk, after which they begin to wean. However, they will still suckle on and off for the next six months. Cubs will leave the den for the first time after approximately two months. Within 18 months the cubs will be able to hunt themselves and are fully independent by the age of two years. At this time the cubs will have to find and defend their own territory.
Behaviour and Diet
Male and female tigers mark their ranges by spraying scent on trees or bushes. The extent of a tiger's range varies according to habitat and availability of prey. Its sight and hearing are very acute, accounting for the tiger being such an efficient predator.
The tiger’s whiskers are just a little longer than the width of its body which helps it to navigate in the dark dense undergrowth. Unlike other members of the cat family, the tiger cannot outrun its prey and will therefore use its camouflage to surprise it instead. The hunting method is slow and patient, stalking through often dense cover until close enough to spring. Tigers in general tend to attack prey from the side or rear at close range and when the prey weighs more than half that of the tiger, a throat bite is used and death is caused by suffocation.
The Sumatran Tiger will generally hunt at dusk and may travel up to 20 kilometres in one night in search of food. Its diet mainly consists of deer, wild pig and fowl. The Sumatran Tiger is a good swimmer and will try to run hoofed prey into water where the prey will be slower and more easily caught.
Taronga is very fortunate to be caring for Sumatran Tigers, as part of international conservation efforts to protect this Critically Endangered species.
Ahead of Taronga's Centenary celebrations, construction is commencing soon on a new Sumatran Tiger exhibit which will be one of the Zoo's most exciting and engaging experiences. It is scheduled to open in 2017.
While construction is underway, Taronga Zoo's female Sumatran Tigers, mother, Jumilah, and juveniles, Kembali and Kartika, have been moved to Taronga Western Plains Zoo until the new exhibit at Taronga is completed. They will be joining Taronga's young male tiger Sakti, who moved there earlier in the year.
With less than 400 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild, breeding programs for these big cats are more important than ever. Taronga is part of a regional conservation management plan for Sumatran Tigers including breeding, fundraising, research and community action to support sustainably produced Palm Oil. The new exhibit will enable Taronga to inspire people to become more involved in direct action such as choosing products made with sustainable palm oil to help reduce deforestation in tiger habitat.