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What makes a Sumatran tiger different? Candid Animal Cam heads to Southeast Asia

  • Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting the smallest tiger subspecies on Earth: the Sumatran tiger.

The magnificent but critically endangered Sumatran tiger is native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Compared to other subspecies of tiger, the Sumatran tiger has a darker orange color in its fur and stripes that are closer together. This color pattern allows them to blend into their habitat. They prefer tropical forest with dense understory cover, freshwater swamp forests and peat swamps. They strongly avoid forests near human settlements. Unfortunately, their habitat has been drastically reduced by clearing for oil palm plantations, coal mining operations and road construction. Roads not only fragment tiger habitat, but they also escalate human-tiger conflicts and open access to illegal logging and poachers. Poaching poses a significant threat to their survival. Tigers are illegally traded for tiger farms, body parts and to supply the traditional medicinal use in Asia. Due to this, fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers are estimated to remain in the wild. Protecting tigers and their habitat means many other species like rhinos, orangutans, and elephants will be protected too as they live in the same forests in Sumatra. Watch the video to learn more about this species!

Special thanks to Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and Dr Matthew Luskin for sharing their camera trap footage with us. Dr Luskin conducts wildlife sampling in Southeast Asia to study the impacts of oil palm plantations on wildlife communities. He is now based in The University of Queensland, Australia and is the director of The Ecological Cascades Lab.

Panthera’s Tigers Forever program operates in partnership with Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and local authorities in Kerinci Seblat National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Their goal in the region is to increase tiger numbers by addressing the primary threats facing tigers, including poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss due to infrastructure and other developments, and human-tiger conflict. Activities include monitoring tiger and prey populations and bolstering local anti-poaching law enforcement efforts by providing technical expertise, equipment, and training. Over the next two years, the organization plan to lay the ground work to establish a local NGO supported by Panthera. Ultimately, they envision developing four to five well-connected core areas in the 14,000 km2 Kerinci National Park that serve as source populations for the larger landscape.


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Banner image: Courtesy of Panthera

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Romi Castagnino is Mongabay’s bilingual writer. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @romi_castagnino

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