Lonely Planet Writer

The Sumatran tiger population is growing in one of its most important habitats

The population of one of the world’s most threatened species of big cat appears to be increasing in one of their most important habitats. Sumatran tigers are the only remaining island tigers in the wild after the extinctions of the closely-related Javan and Bali Tiger.

Portrait of Sumatran Tiger. Image by Jean-Paul Chatagnon/Getty Images

As their name suggests, Sumatran tigers are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and are classified as critically endangered. A major new study has shown however, that numbers in a major national park appear to be improving despite numerous threats and challenges. Sumatran tigers require a home range of up to 25,000 hectares and face poaching for their skin, bones, and other body parts.

However, a study by the World Conservation Society (WCS) in the famous Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park brought some welcome news. They set 123 PantheraCam camera traps over a block of 1000 square kilometres of forest to try and count the number of tigers. Results showed that there were 2.8 tigers per 100 square kilometres as compared to just 1.6 tigers fifteen years ago. The proportion of male to female tigers was one to three as well, which is an ideal number to maximise the prospect of cubs being born.

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Wulan Pusparini of the WCS said: “this ratio indicates that the tiger population in the national park is in a healthy condition and breeding opportunities exist for many females within the areas we surveyed. Our study not only looks at population condition, but also used the photographs to assess the threat of people illegally entering the park.”

The welcome news is due in no small part to increased ranger patrols in the park, removing snares and protecting the land from encroachment. Now, with conservation measures bearing fruit, Indonesia will be hoping that its treasured Unesco tropical rainforest heritage can be removed from the ‘in danger’ list.