Animal of the Month
October 2017

Name: Sumatran Tiger

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: P. tigris
Subspecies: P. t. sumatrae

Size:Females 85-91 inches long, males 87-100 inches long
Weight: Females 165-243lbs, males 220-308lbs

Characteristics: Quadruped, furry, powerful body, large paws with sharp claws, long and thin tail, long hair on the sides of the head, small rounded ears. Smaller than average tiger.
Color(s): Orange with thick black stripes. Belly and the inside of legs is white. The eyes are a golden-yellow.
Behavior: Solitary, shy and reclusive, very territorial
Preferred Habitat: Tropical forests, freshwater swamp forests and peat swamps
Range: Scattered areas across Sumatra.
Diet: A variety of prey animals including tapir, dear, wild pigs, monkeys, birds and fish.
Lifespan: 10-15 years in the wild with 12 being the average, 20 years in captivity.


Tigers are the largest of the big cats. When you say "tiger", many people think of the largest of the large cats, the Siberian tiger, which can grow almost eleven feet long! But there are other subspecies of tiger that are often overlooked, such as the smallest surviving subspecies of tiger: the Sumatran tiger. Sumatran tigers are only found in the jungles, mountains and marshlands of the island of Sumatra. They are the last of the Sunda Island Tigers, which included the Bali tigers and Javan tigers, both of which unfortunately are now extinct.

Sumatran tigers look very similar to other tigers with their signature orange and black coats, huge teeth and radiant tail. They also bear tufts of fur on the sides of their heads that is a bit larger than that of other tigers. While formidable in size, these tigers grow only to about 100 inches, with males being larger than females. Essentially, their size is about the same as a large jaguar or leopard. Though they are smaller than their Siberian cousins, this trait allows them to travel quickly through the jungle with ease. They also possess webbed paws, which they use for swimming!

Sumatran tigers are ambush predators, lying in wait for animals such as tapirs, deer, pigs and monkeys. This is why they prefer areas with dense vegetation, as this allows them to hide more easily. They are also known to swim in rivers and swamps to eat fish and other animals. They depend mostly on their acute senses of sight and hearing more so than smell when hunting for prey. Sumatran tigers are generally shy and reclusive, though they fiercely protect their territory from other tigers of the same sex. Males and females both maintain their separate territories, which inevitably overlap with one-another.

Sumatran tigers do not have a specific mating season, though they appear to breed the most from November through April. A male and female tiger will only meet to mate, though the male may stay within the female's area afterward. Females gestate for about three and a half months before giving birth to their cubs. They can have as many as six cubs per litter! The cubs are born blind and remain so for the first week of their life. They nurse from their mother for about six months. At about eighteen months the cubs become more independent, and after two years they will go on their own.

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered. It is estimated that no more than 400-500 individuals are left in the wild, with each population being no larger than fifty individuals. Their main threats include severe deforestation and poaching. As their habitat shrinks, Sumatran tigers are increasingly preying on domestic livestock. Sometimes even humans are attacked. Though it is illegal to hunt tigers in all of Indonesia, there is still a large black market demand for tiger parts that are used in traditional Asian medicines. Their bones and reproductive organs are highly coveted by these illegal operations. Remember, these animal-based medicines and products have no scientific validity whatsoever!

Though these tigers are in peril, there are massive conservation efforts underway to save them. The World Wildlife Fund has made protecting tigers one of their largest campaigns and has collaborated with local governments to protect tiger habitat and minimize deforestation. Other organizations such as Fauna & Flora International train park rangers and help to remove tiger traps in the jungles. All of this work is paying off. In recent years, some populations of Sumatran tigers have been reported to be increasing! The path to full recovery for this subspecies will be long and difficult, but this cooperation and dedication is a remarkable step forward and hints at a hopeful future.

To help these awesome cats and their larger cousins, check out these awesome organizations!

World Wildlife Fund, Sumatran tiger page-One of the world's leading conservation organizations, dedicated to protecting many endangered animals and their habitat including the Sumatran tiger

Fauna & Flora International, Sumatran tiger page-Working in over 40 countries to protect biodiversity and to educate the public about the natural world.

Panthera, Partnership with Save the Tiger Fund-A unique and powerful partnership between Pathera, which seeks to protect all wild cats, and Save the Tiger Fund, which aims to specifically preserve tigers.



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