Wildlife Safari is home to two 5-year-old Sumatran tiger sisters, Riya and Kemala. Sumatran tigers are currently one of the most endangered tiger subspecies in the world. There are less than 400 Sumatran tigers left in their native habitat, the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Two other islands in Indonesia were also previously home to tigers, the Javan and the Balinese, but those two subspecies are now extinct.
Before the 1900s, there were nine subspecies of tigers: the Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan, South China, Javan, Siberian, Balinese, Sumatran, Malayan, and the Caspian. There are now 6, as the Caspian tiger has gone extinct along with the Javan and the Balinese subspecies. These three subspecies have been driven to extinction in the last 100 years, showing how rapidly the populations of tigers can decline. Hunting, habitat fragmentation, loss of habitat, and loss of prey are the main causes of extinction among tigers.
In Sumatra, the main struggles the native tigers face are habitat loss and fragmentation due to palm oil production, and poaching by hunters who value them for their furs and other parts of their bodies. Unfortunately, there is a high demand in Chinese medicine where their eyes, bones, teeth, and whiskers are seen as having healing properties. Laws and regulations are in place for poaching, but unfortunately, poachers are still able to hunt endangered species regardless of them. Palm oil is used in a wide variety of different products such as makeup, food, soaps, detergents, and biofuel. The majority of palm oil is harvested in Indonesia and Malaysia, and much of it is not harvested using sustainable sources. As a result, the habitats of the Sumatran and Malaysian tigers are being broken up and are shrinking down as palm oil production increases.
Fortunately, tigers have many organizations and individuals willing to aid them in their continued survival. There is a lot people can do to help out tiger conservation! Supporting conservation efforts through donations, “adopting” a tiger, or even volunteering your time will help those that are trying to directly impact the conservation of tigers. Learning more about how to purchase products that are made with sustainable sources of palm oil (or that don’t use palm oil at all) can help reduce the impact that palm oil plantations are having on tiger habitats in Southeast Asia. Lastly, educating others about the status of tiger subspecies, conservation efforts, and how they can assist will help spread the word and hopefully inspire others to get involved!