Monday, March 9, 2009
Indonesian Endangered Animal: The Sumatran Tiger
This is a picture of harimau Sumatra or the Sumatran tiger (panthera tigris sumatrae) that I took at Bandung Zoo sometime ago. The Sumatran tiger is one of only six surviving subspecies of tiger. The other subspecies are - in discending order of their number in the wild: The Bengal tiger (panthera tigris tigris), the Indochinese tiger (panthera tigris corbetti), the Malayan tiger (panthera tigris jacksoni), the Siberian tiger (panthera tigris altaica), and the south China tiger (panthera tigris amoyensis).
As the name indicates, the Sumatran tiger is native to, and is only found on, the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is considered as a critically endangered subspecies of tiger with an estimation of only about 250 individuals currently still surviving in the wild, according to an Indonesian NGO The Coalition for the Monitoring of Protected Wild Animals. This remaining population is scattered in 18 separate enclaves, most of which are found at Leuser and Kerinci Seblat National Parks.
The Sumatran tiger is the only surviving subspecies of tigers out of three that Indonesia has or used to have. The other two that are now extinct are the Balinese tiger (panthera tigris balica) and the Javan tiger (panthera tigris sondaica). The Balinese tiger went extinct in 1937. The last of it - a female - was reported to have been killed at Sumbar Kima in the West of Bali on September 27, 1937. The Javan tiger was thought to have become extinct not too long ago in 1980, although there were reports of its sightings as recently as last year. The sightings, however, could not be verified.
Habitat destruction caused by logging and the conversion of pristine forests into palm oil plantations, industrial forests, and farms is the main threat to the existing population of the Sumatran tiger. But hunting and illegal trade of its skin and other organs are of no less serious threat to its extinction. In the two year period between 1998 and 2000, for example, 66 tigers (or about 20 percent of its population) were recorded to have been killed (the number could have been higher as it is quite probable that there were undiscovered killings). This should come as no surprise as a piece of Sumatran tiger skin can fetch about US$ 3,300 at the international market. Some black market rare animal skin brokers are even reportedly willing to give a handsome amount of downpayment as an incentive for people to hunt the tigers.
The Sumatran tiger is the smallest surviving subspecies of tigers. The adult males weigh about 100 - 140 kilograms (220 - 308 lbs), whereas the female weight about 75 - 110 kilograms (154 - 242 lbs).