Habitat destruction, poaching and other interaction with humans has reduced the number of Sumatran Tigers to less than 500.
The Sumatran Tiger, the smallest of all tiger sub-species, can be found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, an area that has recently undergone huge human development and agricultural growth. Rainforests in much of Asia, including Sumatra, are being cleared to make way for unsustainable palm oil plantations.
Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos are part of a collective working to protect Sumatran Tigers in a number of ways. In 2010, the Chinese Year of the Tiger, a partnership between zoos around the world and the fundraising organisation 21st Century Tiger put enormous effort into raising awareness about the plight of tiger species. The partnership also generated funds for tiger conservation through habitat protection and regeneration and preventing the illegal trade in tigers and tiger products. Zoo-based research at Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos compliments these projects.
The Sumatran Tigers on display at Taronga Zoo are an inspiration for fundraising and help generate awareness about threats to this species and others found in these fragile areas. The population of Sumatran Tigers held in the Australasian region is also vital insurance against catastrophic declines in the wild. The management of the tigers held in zoos such as Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos, is organised to preserve the genetic and behavioural diversity of their offspring.
In addition, Taronga is running the “Don’t Palm Us Off” campaign with other Australian zoos. To support sustainable Palm Oil sources, the first step is for Palm Oil to be listed as an ingredient on food labels. Currently the oil can be listed as “vegetable oil”, so consumers do not know what is in the products they are purchasing.