April 08, 2021 3 min read

The Sumatran Tiger is listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with less than 400 individuals remaining. Their only habitat left in the world is the island of Sumatra.

They are the last of the Sunda Tigers and the smallest of the remaining 6 tiger subspecies (typically weighing from 160-300 lbs). They roam through forests and need a lot of space - space that they are rapidly losing due to deforestation in Sumatra (IUCN 2021). 

Since 1900, global tiger populations have declined by over 95% and tigers now occupy less than 7% of their historical range. This rapid decline is largely due to sustained oil palm expansion, forest degradation, and poaching. Despite being globally beloved, being at a very high risk of extinction, as well as being the focus of immense conservation programs, trends in Sumatran tiger densities remain unclear.

According to one study, it’s been observed that the densities of tiger populations are lower in landscapes with substantial logging compared to continuous primary forests. The decline in Sumatran tiger secure source populations, (populations that have over 25 breeding females with a potential to contain over 50 breeding females) was driven by continuous rapid loss and selective logging of large habitats. Data suggests that of the 12 secure source tiger populations that existed in the mid-20th century, now, only 2 of those populations (as of 2012) exceed greater than 25 breeding females. It was also observed that the decline of these populations was not due to changes in density from poaching or depletion of their prey, (tiger densities actually increased from 1996 to 2014) but instead, due to habitat loss. From 1990 and 2010, 37% of Sumatra’s total primary forest was lost. From 2000 to 2012, forests with tigers occupying them declined 16.5%. Furthermore, habitat loss disproportionately affected landscapes that housed many tigers, like lowland and hill forests. These tiger dense areas declined 21.1%, primarily due to the expansion of palm oil plantations. In logged areas, tiger densities were 31.9% lower. As of 2012, 80.0% of Sumatra’s remaining hill, lowland, and peat forest has already been disturbed (Luskin 2017).

Human-tiger conflict is also highly prevalent, as well as the illegal trade of tiger parts. From 1998-2002, at least 51 tigers per year were killed. 76% of which was for purposes of trade and 15% out of human-tiger conflict (IUCN 2021). However, these high mortality rates can be offset by an abundant prey base (Luskin 2017). Prey base depletion is considered a leading threat to tigers across much of their range (IUCN 2021).

Protecting and conserving tigers is crucial, as this not only helps protect the Sumatran Tiger, but also helps to preserve biodiversity and much of the ecological processes within their habitat. This is why conservation efforts to control deforestation is necessary, especially if the Sumatran Tiger is not to meet the same fate as the Balinese and Javanese tiger sub-species that went extinct during the 20th century (Luskin 2017).

Going forward we can move to more sustainable alternatives to palm oil, such as algae-based oil. Support companies that have zero-deforestation initiatives and start moving to palm oil alternatives, like algae-based oil, that doesn’t require deforestation to produce.  







Linkie, M., Wibisono, H.T., Martyr, D.J. & Sunarto, S.2008. Panthera tigrisssp. sumatrae. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T15966A5334836.https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T15966A5334836.enDownloaded on20 April 2021. 

No factual changes have been made to the work cited above, only modified for the sake of condensing the material. 

Luskin, M.S., Albert, W.R. & Tobler, M.W. Sumatran tiger survival threatened by deforestation despite increasing densities in parks.Nat Commun8,1783 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-01656-4

Link to source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-01656-4#citeas

This material is licensed under CC by 4.0: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Copyright notice: 

  • Received 

  • Accepted 

  • Published 

The material above has been modified for the sake of condensation, no factual changes have been made.