Tiger cubs captured on film in highly threatened forest

Posted: 11 May 2011

WWF camera traps have recorded a record number of tiger images, capturing shots of 12 tigers in just two months in the central Sumatran forest of Bukit Tigapuluh, itself under threat from paper mill development.

A video camera trap in the same area has also captured footage of three young tiger siblings playfully chasing a leaf.

Tigress and cub
Tigress and cub captured on hidden camera, Bukit Tigapuluh, Sumatra. Photo credit WWF

“Our team was thrilled to discover 47 tiger images in our camera traps, from which we identified six unique individuals,” said Karmila Parakkasi, who leads WWF’s tiger research team in Sumatra. “This is the highest number of tigers and tiger images obtained in the first month of sampling that we’ve ever experienced. And the results from the second month were even more impressive, recording six tigers from two different families.”

Video footage of the tigers can be downloaded here.

The forest where the tigers were recorded is under imminent threat of being cleared by the pulp and paper industry, despite being designated a “global priority Tiger Conservation Landscape”. It is one of six the government of Indonesia pledged to protect at last November’s tiger summit of world leaders in Russia. The area, known as Bukit Tigapuluh, or “Thirty Hills”, is located in Riau and Jambi provinces in Central Sumatra.

There are an estimated 400 critically endangered Sumatran tigers left in the wild. Evidence of three cubs surviving is extremely rare, WWF tiger experts said, and was captured by cameras located in the forest that are triggered by infrared sensors.

“What’s unclear is whether we found so many tigers because we’re getting better at locating our cameras or because the tigers’ habitat is shrinking so rapidly here that they are being forced into sharing smaller and smaller bits of forests,” said Parakkasi.

WWF’s analysis found the tigers are concentrated in locations with good forest cover, which includes natural forest areas inside a land concession belonging to a subsidiary of Barito Timber Pacific. As soon as pending permits are granted by the government, the company plans to clear the forest. Prominent conservation groups including WWF have urged the two companies and the government of Indonesia to protect these forests instead.

“This video confirms the extreme importance of these forests in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem and its wildlife corridor,” said Anwar Purwoto, director of WWF-Indonesia’s Forest and Species Program. “WWF calls for all concessions operating in this area to abandon plans to clear this forest and protect areas with high conservation value. We also urge the local, provincial and central government to take into consideration the importance of this corridor and manage it as part of Indonesia’s commitments to protecting biodiversity.”

Between 2004 and 2010, Bukit Tigapuluh lost 205,460 hectares of forest to pulp and paper and the palm oil industries.

The Sumatran tiger and the other five surviving tiger subspecies – the Amur, Malayan, Bengal, Indochinese and South China – number as few as 3,200 in the wild. WWF is working to build the political, financial and public support to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022.