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Sumatran Tigers pushed towards extinction

A subspecies of tigers called the Sumatran Tiger is nearly extinct due to human involvement in its habitat, according to a new research paper. These tigers are found exclusively on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and only 400 of them live today.

According to researchers from Virginia Tech and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the number of existing Sumatran tigers is much lower than the current estimate. Their study showed that a high level of human activity in this region has led to a decline in the tiger population.

The WWF says that deforestation and poaching is pushing the rare Sumatran tigers towards extinction, just like its cousins, Javan and Balinese tigers that are now extinct.

Sumatran tigers have heavy black stripes on orange coats and are extremely elusive, with just one tiger living in 40 square miles. In the study, researchers compared tiger density in various forests in the region and even a previously unstudied peat land.

“Getting evidence of the tigers’ presence was difficult,” Marcella Kelly, associate professor of wildlife in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. “It took an average of 590 days for camera traps to get an image of each individual tiger recorded.”

Fewer tigers were found in the central Sumatran region despite the area being abundant with its prey, which is probably due to extensive human activity in the region, researchers said.

Sumatran tigers are protected by law in Indonesia. Despite heavy fines and possible jail term, people continue to hunt these tigers.

“Tigers are not only threatened by habitat loss from deforestation and poaching; they are also very sensitive to human disturbance. They cannot survive in areas without adequate understory, but they are also threatened in seemingly suitable forests when there is too much human activity,” said Sunarto, who earned his doctorate from Virginia Tech in 2011. Sunarto is from Indonesia and is one of the study authors, according to a press release.

The research paper, “Threatened predator on the equator: multi-point abundance estimates of the tiger Panthera tigris in central Sumatra,” is published in Oryx-The International Journal of Conservation.

Read story here: Nature World News