Sumatran tiger on the brink

Posted: 7 July 2004

Author: Chris R. Shepherd

Indonesia is set to lose its last remaining Tiger species - the Sumatran Tiger - if the widespread illegal trade in Tiger parts and rampant habitat loss is not stopped.

The Sumatran tiger. Photo: Fredy Mercay/WWF
The Sumatran tiger. Photo: Fredy Mercay/WWF
The Sumatran tiger. Only 400-500 now remain in the wild. Photo © Fredy Mercay/WWF
A new report released by TRAFFIC and WWF in March 2004 on trade in the Sumatran Tiger reveals that as many as 50 Sumatran Tigers were poached per year between 1998 and 2002. The latest available figures show that there are between 400 and 500 tigers left in the wild in Sumatra.

The report exposes the relentless killing of a critically endangered species by professional and semi-professional hunters. This is being driven by a substantial domestic Indonesian market for tiger skins and other parts, especially claws and teeth for trophies, charms and souvenirs. Tiger parts are readily available from dealers, within Sumatra, many of these openly displayed for sale.

TRAFFIC's investigators found tiger products in 17 of the 24 towns surveyed and 20 per cent of 453 shops visited. The report also reveals illegal international trade in Sumatran Tiger parts sold to other parts of Asia.

Improved enforcement is critical to saving Sumatran tigers. As a first step, action should be taken against the markets, trade hubs and retail outlets highlighted in the report, especially in northern Sumatra. More specialised anti-poaching units also need to be urgently established.

Loss of habitat is also a major threat to the Sumatran Tiger. The clearing of Sumatra's lowland forests, prime Tiger territory has resulted in the Tigers roaming into local villages, where they are sometimes captured and killed.

With only a few hundred Sumatran Tigers remaining, there is a fear that they will suffer the same fate as two other Indonesian Tiger subspecies, the Bali and Javan Tigers, which became extinct in the 1940s and 1980's respectively.

Chris R. Shepherd is Senior Programme Officer at TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

A slightly longer version of this report appears in the June 2004 edition of Dispatches, published by TRAFFIC.

Related link:

Nowhere to hide: The trade in Sumatran Tiger