The Sumatran Tiger population is as few as 400 and perhaps as large as 500 today. They are holding on for survival on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. They are the smallest surviving subspecies with orange coats with black stripes. No two tigers have the same pattern of stripes on their coats. They also have a white beard. They weigh between 165 and 308 pounds. They are solitary animals in the wild. Being the smallest of the tiger subspecies, the Sumatran Tiger male averages about 265 pounds and around eight feet long from head to tail. The female is quite a bit smaller, at an average of 200 pounds and approximately seven feet long. These tigers can communicate with one another by rubbing heads, roaring and grunting.
Sumatran Tigers depend less on smell and more on keen eyesight and hearing to ambush and capture prey, primarily between dusk and dawn. This tiger prefers to hunt in the cover of dense foliage and can travel from 6 to 20 miles in a night in search of their prey. The hunt begins with a slow silent stalk followed by a fast rush to reach the striking distance and brings it to the ground and finally kills the animal with a bite to the neck or throat. A tiger eats 30 to 40 pounds of meat in an average night and must kill once per week.
The life span is ten to fifteen years and can reach 20 years in human care. The average time these tigers live in the wild is 12 years. Only half of the cubs survive independently of their mothers. Mortality continues to be high especially for males which must defend their territories from other males.
The part of Indonesia in which they live has swamps, rivers, lowlands and peat forests. These wet conditions are ideal for the Sumatran Tiger, which are good swimmers, and can pursue their prey in water quite efficiently. All tigers only eat other animals, not vegetation. This limits the diet of Sumatran Tigers to birds, fish, crocodiles, monkeys, deer, wild pigs and other prey. The Sumatran Tiger does not climb very well, so animals that can get high up in the surrounding trees are likely to be able to escape the predator.
Due to deforestation and poaching, this critically endangered species could end up extinct like its Javan and Balinese relatives. At least 40 Sumatran tigers are killed each year deliberately for commercial gain according to TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade monitoring network. They estimate that over 78% of the Sumatran tiger deaths are due to poaching. Anyone caught hunting the tigers could face jail time and steep fines, but there is still a substantial market in Sumatra and the rest of Asia for tiger parts and products. In particular, the countries of China, Vietnam and Malaysia use almost every part of the tiger for traditional medicines, delicacies and decorations.
About 16 million acres of forest have been destroyed by clearings for agriculture, plantations, illegal timber harvesting and settlement. The destruction of so much forest forces the tigers into settled areas which create a human-tiger conflict where people have been wounded or killed, and livestock are killed by the tigers causing villagers to kill the tiger.
The island of Sumatra is the only place where tigers,rhinos, orangutans and elephants live together. The presence of the Sumatran Tiger is an important indicator of a forest’s biodiversity.