These formidable animals are critically endangered in the wild. Zoos around the world, including Melbourne Zoo, have become part of the battle to prevent the extinction of this species.
The Sumatran Tiger is classed as ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN ‘red list’), with numbers in the wild falling. The animals remaining in the wild may number in the hundreds. Threats include habitat loss as palm oil plantations are extended through their natural range, hunting for traditional medicine (although this is illegal in all countries), and loss of prey.
Melbourne Zoo is involved in a captive breeding program for these critically endangered animals. Four cubs, born in February 2010, can be seen daily at the zoo. Visiting the Zoo helps to fight extinction. Meeting the Sumatran Tigers at Melbourne Zoo is an opportunity not only to see these rare animals, but also to learn about the threats facing this species, what the international community is doing to try to conserve the species, and how Zoos Victoria is contributing to the fight.
The Sumatran Tiger is found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in habitat ranging from mountainous forests to lowland forests. The Sumatran Tiger is one of nine subspecies of tiger (three of which are already extinct), and it is believed that these animals became isolated to Sumatra when rising sea levels smothered the land, causing the formation of islands in the region.
Sumatran Tigers are the smallest of all tigers, and their size assists them in navigating the dense, tropical forests in which they hunt.
Being solitary animals, they are highly adapted to ambush hunting, using their stripes as camouflage against the dappled light of the forest floor. Sumatran Tigers will lie in wait to prey upon wild boar, birds, tapir, fish and deer.
- Tigers are proficient swimmers and can cross rivers that are 7–8 km wide without any difficulty
- Tigers will attack their prey from the rear; only 1 in 10–20 attempts succeed in a kill
- To seek out prey and defend a home range it is not uncommon for a tiger to travel 10–20 km a day