Image: Creative Commons
From the eyes on its head to the whiskers on its face, there is not a single bit of the tiger that does not promise a cure for something. Or, so decree the Oracles of Chinese traditional medicine. And, if the Chinese are not boiling the tiger, grinding its bones into powder or making soup of it, others are selling it on the black market for as much as twenty thousand dollars per animal. Live beasts are good, but dead pose little problem. And, of course, there is always a little bit of sport involved, too. Then there are the land robbers, committing large scale pillage and rape. They have logged, cleared, burnt, converted, planted and settled. And, they show no signs of easing up until they have fully exploited the Sumatran tiger’s habitat. The situation, by the admittance of Indonesian forestry officials, is now way out of control. We are, in case you haven’t already guessed, back in Sumatra; an island where they seem very practised at forcing species towards extinction.
Sumatran tigers can be distinguished by their thinner stripes. Male Sumatrans have long fur around their faces, giving them a maned appearance. They are smaller than other subspecies, with an average male weighing about two hundred and sixty-five pounds. Females are less heavy at about two hundred pounds. Males grow up to eight feet in length, and females, a slightly shorter seven feet.
Tigers kill swiftly and painlessly. A tiger will ambush its prey from behind and administer one fatal bite to the neck. The spinal cord will break and death is almost always instantaneous. They will then drag their prey out of sight. They can eat up to forty pounds at a time, and will save what they don’t eat for later. They are spectacular swimmers and have been known to chase their prey into water to gain an advantage. They live in dens and caves, and sometimes tree hollows; they are mostly nocturnal and invariably solitary.
There is no specific breeding season for tigers, but mating often takes place between November and April, following which there is a gestation period of about three and a half months. Three or four cubs will be born in a cave, a rocky crevice, or in dense vegetation. For the first few days their eyes and ears will remain closed. The father of the cubs will not be involved in raising them. They will stay within the confines of the den until they reach eight weeks. At the age of six months they will begin their lessons in killing prey. However, their first lone kill will not be until they are about eighteen months old. Cubs normally stay with their mothers until they are two or three years of age. The juvenile mortality is high, however, and sadly, almost half of all cubs do not survive beyond the age of two.
The Sumatran tiger is the smallest of the five tiger subspecies. It has lived exclusively, for over a million years, in the once extensive moist tropical jungles of the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.
Although tigers have been killed as a result of human conflict, the most significant numbers of killings have been for financial gain. Poaching for trade is responsible for over 78% of estimated Sumatran tiger deaths, consisting of at least 40 animals per year. There is no evidence that this trade is declining.
Almost sixty-seven thousand square kilometres of forest was lost between 1985 and 1997. Most of that was lowland forest, the preferred habitat of the Sumatran tiger. Since then, the annual rate of deforestation has increased dramatically.
If these illegal activities are not stamped out soon, or at least brought under control, there will be no future for the Sumatran tiger.
Montane and peat forests, lowlands, swamps and rivers.
The Indonesian island of Sumatra.
What they eat
Young rhinos, various pigs and members of the deer family. It will also feast on smaller prey such as snakes, fish, monkeys and tapirs.
Habitat loss, illegal logging, depletion of prey base, human conflict and poaching.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is listed on the IUCN List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered. Most wild tigers live in the various National Parks of Sumatra. Others, about 20% of the overall population, live in unprotected areas. However, the square acreage of these supposedly protected National Parks is constantly dwindling due to illegal agriculture. The growing of coffee has become a major concern. This issue, and others, can only be addressed by a) the law being strictly enforced – which it most certainly is not at the moment, and b) making the penalties far more severe that they are.
It is thought three hundred of the species may still survive in Sumatra in the wild. There are roughly the same amount kept in zoos. “The European breeding programme and the Global Management Species Programme for Sumatran tigers are both coordinated by ZSL London Zoo – where ZSL’s specialists are responsible for ensuring a healthy and diverse population of tigers in zoos around the world.” 
There are various international organisations and trusts who are trying to help the Sumatran tiger, but unless something is done to halt the destruction of the forests soon, the Sumatran tiger will go the way of the Javan and Balinese tigers. Both of which are now extinct.
“Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all”