The Sumatran Tiger


Image of a Sumatran Tiger
Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) close up

As its name implies, the Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) inhabits the Sumatra Island (the only island situated entirely in Indonesia). In the wild, in fact, this is the only place in the world in which this subspecies can be found. This is physically the smallest of all of the tiger subspecies. Its scientific name is Panthera tigris sumatrae, and there are fewer than 300 specimens left in existence in the wild today.

Physical Characteristics
Being the smallest of the tiger subspecies, the Sumatran Tiger male is only about 120 kilograms (or 265 pounds) and 243 centimetres (or around eight feet) long from head to tail. The female is quite a bit smaller, at an average of 91 kilograms (equivalent to about 200 pounds) and 213 centimetres or seven feet long.

The Sumatran Tiger has thinner stripes on its coat than the other tigers, which helps it to camouflage itself as it darts with agile precision through the long grasses of its habitat. Male Sumatrans have particularly long fur around the faces, giving them a distinctive maned appearance.

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Habitat
The part of Indonesia in which these awe-inspiring creatures live is characterised by its swamps, rivers, lowlands and Montane and peat forests. These wet conditions are ideal for the Sumatran Tiger, which is a particularly good swimmer, and can pursue its prey in water quite efficiently.

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Diet and Hunting
The tiger’s prey depends very much on its habitat. All tigers are carnivorous (meaning that they only eat other animals, not vegetation). These two factors define the Sumatran Tiger’s diet of ungulates, birds, fish and monkeys, which are all conveniently found in the islands of Indonesia. The Sumatran Tiger does not climb very well, so prey that can get high up into the boughs of the surrounding trees are likely to be able to escape the predator. Interestingly, a female will only hunt within her own territory, while a male will have his own territory, but is also likely to overlap onto the hunting grounds of several other females.

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Family Structure
As is the norm with all tiger subspecies, the Sumatran Tiger has a gestation period of around 3.5 months, after which a litter of about three or four cubs is born. Within a few days, their ears and eyes have opened, and they leave the den for the first time at around eight weeks of age. After another four months, the cubs start learning to make their own kill. Although they will stay with their mother until about two to three years of age, they will be making their own kills at about 18 months old. Across all of the tiger subspecies, the fathers do not have anything to do with the raising of the cubs.

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Conservation
The Sumatran Tiger’s numbers are depleting at a steady rate due to illegal hunting and the ever-increasing problem of deforestation. As the forests are destroyed by man, the natural habitat of the tiger and its prey disappears, causing them to die out steadily. New, more restrictive laws are necessary, as are harsher repercussions for illegal poachers.