The Sumatran tiger, unlike other brethren, by its name absolutely justifies the only and permanent place of its residence – the island of Sumatra. You won't find him anywhere else. The subspecies is the smallest of all, but it is considered the most aggressive. Probably, his ancestors absorbed the unpleasant experience of communicating with humans more than others.
Origin of the species and description
Data about the evolution of the species are obtained on the basis of a number of studies of fossil remains of animals. Through phylogenetic analysis, scientists proved that East Asia became the main center of origin. The oldest fossils were found in the Jetis beds and date back to the period 1.67-1.80 million years ago.
Genomic analysis shows that snow leopards separated from the ancestors of the tiger about 1.67 million years ago. At the same time, the subspecies Panthera tigris sumatrae was the first to separate from the rest of the species. This happened around 67.3 thousand years ago. At this time, the Toba volcano erupted on the island of Sumatra.
Video: Sumatran tiger
Paleontologists are sure that this led to a decrease in temperature on the entire planet and the extinction of certain species of animals and plants. Modern scientists believe that a certain number of tigers were able to survive as a result of this cataclysm and, having formed separate populations, settled in areas isolated from each other.
By the standards of evolution as a whole, the common ancestor of tigers existed quite recently, but modern subspecies have already managed to undergo natural selection. The ADH7 gene, found in the Sumatran tiger, played an important role in this. Scientists have linked the size of the animal to this factor. Previously, the group included the Balinese and Javanese tigers, but now they are completely extinct.
Appearance and features
In addition to their small size relative to their counterparts, the Sumatran tiger is distinguished by special habits and appearance. The color of the body is orange or red-brown. Wide bands due to their proximity often merge together, and their frequency is much higher than that of relatives.
Strong paws are framed by stripes, unlike the Amur tiger. The hind limbs are very long, thanks to which the animals can jump up to 10 meters from a sitting position. On the front paws, there are 4 fingers, between which there are membranes, on the hind legs, 5. Retractable claws of incredible sharpness reach 10 centimeters in length.
Thanks to long whiskers on the cheeks and neck, the muzzles of males are reliably protected from branches when moving quickly in the jungle. A strong and long tail acts as a balancer while running, helping to quickly turn around when changing direction, and also shows the mood when communicating with other individuals.
Interesting fact: There are white spots near the back of the ears in in the form of eyes that serve as a decoy for predators about to attack the tiger from behind.
30 sharp teeth reach 9 cm in length and help to instantly bite through the skin of the victim. The bite of such a tiger develops a pressure of 450 kg. The eyes are quite large with a round pupil. The iris is yellow, in albinos it is bluish. Wild cats have color vision. Sharp bumps on the tongue help to quickly skin a dead animal and separate the meat from the bone.
- The average height at the withers is 60 cm;
- The length of males is 2.2-2, 7 m;
- Length of females – 1.8-2.2 m;
- Weight of males – 110-130 kg;
- Weight of females – 70-90 kg.;
- Tail length – 0.9-1.2 m.
Where does the Sumatran tiger live?
Sumatran the tiger is distributed throughout the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
The habitat is very diverse:
- Tropical jungle;
- Dense and humid coastal lowland forests;
- Mountain forests;
- Peat swamps;
The small area of habitat and significant overcrowding of the population are negative factors for the increase in the number of the subspecies. In recent years, the habitat of Sumatran tigers has shifted noticeably inland. This leads to a large expenditure of energy during the hunt and forced adaptation to new conditions.
Predators give the greatest preference to areas with abundant vegetation, mountain slopes where you can find shelter, and areas rich in water sources and a good food supply. A sufficient distance from places inhabited by people plays an important role.
Wild cats avoid humans, so it is almost impossible to meet them on agricultural plantations. The maximum height at which they can be found reaches 2.6 kilometers above sea level. The forest, located on the mountain slopes, is especially popular with predators.
Each animal has its own territory. Females easily get along in the same area with each other. The volume of territories occupied by tigers depends on the height of the terrain and the amount of prey in these lands. The ranges of adult females extend over 30–65 square kilometers, and that of males up to 120 square kilometers.
What does the Sumatran tiger eat?
These animals do not like to sit in ambush for a long time, watching the victims. Having looked out for prey, they sniff, quietly sneak up and suddenly attack. They are able to bring the victim to exhaustion, overcoming dense thickets and other obstacles and chasing it almost across the entire island.
Interesting fact: There is a known case when a tiger pursued a buffalo, considering it a very rare and profitable prey, a few days.
If the hunt is successful and the prey is especially large, the meal can last for several days. Also, the tiger can share with other relatives, especially if they are females. They consume about 5-6 kilograms of meat per day, if hunger is strong, then 9-10 kg.
Sumatran tigers give priority to individuals from the deer family weighing 100 kilograms or more. But they will not miss the opportunity to catch a monkey running past and a bird flying by.
The diet of the Sumatran tiger includes:
- Wild boars;
In captivity, the diet of mammals consists of various types of meat and fish, poultry. Vitamin supplements and mineral complexes are added to food, as a balanced diet for this species is an integral part of its good health and longevity.
Character and lifestyle features
Since the Sumatran tiger is a solitary animal, they lead a solitary lifestyle and occupy vast territories. Among the inhabitants of mountain forests, the areas they occupy reach 300 square kilometers. Skirmishes over territories are rare and are limited mainly to growls and hostile looks, they do not use teeth and claws.
Interesting fact: Communication between Sumatran tigers occurs through loud exhalation of air through the nose. This forms unique sounds that animals distinguish and understand. They also communicate through a game where they can show friendliness or fight, rub against each other's sides and muzzles.
These predators are very fond of water. In hot weather, they can sit in the water for hours, lowering their own body temperature, they like to swim and frolic in shallow water. Often they drive the victim into the pond and deal with it, being excellent swimmers.
In summer, tigers prefer to start hunting at dusk, while in winter, on the contrary, during the day. If they attack prey from an ambush, then they attack it from behind or from the side, biting into its neck and breaking its spine, or they strangle the victim. They drag her to a secluded place and eat her. If the animal turned out to be large, predators may not eat for several days afterwards.
Wild cats mark the boundaries of their territory with urine, feces, and peel off the bark from trees. Young individuals seek territory for themselves on their own or win it back from adult males. They will not tolerate strangers in their possessions, but they are calm about individuals crossing their site and moving on.
Social structure and reproduction
This species can breed throughout the year. Estrus in females lasts an average of 3-6 days. During this period, males attract tigresses in every possible way, making loud roars that can be heard at distances of up to 3 kilometers, and lure them with the smell of caught prey.
loud growls. Males stand on their hind legs and hit each other with their forelimbs, delivering fairly strong blows. Fights last until one of the parties admits defeat.
If a female lets a male near her, they begin to live together, hunt and play until she becomes pregnant. Unlike other subspecies, the Sumatran tiger is an excellent father and does not leave the female until the very birth, helping to raise offspring. When the cubs are able to hunt on their own, the father leaves them and returns to the female with the onset of the next estrus.
Readiness for reproduction in females occurs at 3-4 years, in males – at 4-5. Pregnancy lasts an average of 103 days (from 90 to 100), as a result of which 2-3 kittens are born, a maximum of 6. Tiger cubs weigh about a kilogram and open their eyes 10 days after birth.
The first few months the mother feeds them with milk, after that she begins to bring prey from the hunt and give them solid food. By the age of six months, offspring begin to hunt with their mother. For individual hunting, they mature by one and a half years. At this time, the cubs leave the parental home.
Natural enemies of the Sumatran tigers
Due to their impressive size, compared to other animals, these predators have few enemies. These include only larger animals and, of course, a person destroying the natural habitats of wild cats. Crocodiles and bears can hunt for cubs.
Of the most significant threats to Sumatran tigers is poaching. Animal body parts are very popular in illegal trade markets. In local medicine, they are believed to have healing properties – eyeballs allegedly treat epilepsy, sideburns help get rid of toothache.
Teeth and claws are used as souvenirs, and tiger skins are used as floor or wall carpets. The bulk of the smuggling goes to Malaysia, China, Singapore, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries. Hunters catch tigers using steel cables. Up to 20 thousand dollars can be offered for a killed animal on the illegal market.
In the two years from 1998 to 2000, 66 Sumatran tigers were killed, which is 20% of their population. Many tigers have been killed by local residents due to attacks on farms. Sometimes tigers attack people. Sumatran tigers have killed 8 people since 2002.
Population and species status
The subspecies has been at the stage of extinction for quite a long time. It is classified as Critically Endangered Taxa and is on the Red List of Threatened Species. In view of the rapidly gaining momentum of agricultural activity, the habitat is rapidly decreasing.
Since 1978, the population of predators has been rapidly falling. If then there were about 1000 of them, then in 1986 there were already 800 individuals. In 1993, the number dropped to 600, and in 2008, striped mammals became even smaller. It can be seen with the naked eye that the subspecies is dying out.
According to various sources, the population of this subspecies today is approximately 300-500 individuals. Data for 2006 showed that the habitats of these predators cover an area of 58 thousand square kilometers. However, every year there is an increasing loss of tiger habitats.
This is primarily affected by deforestation, which occurs due to logging for the paper and wood industries, as well as the expansion of palm oil production. In general, this leads to fragmentation of the range. Sumatran tigers need much larger territories to survive.
The increase in the population of Sumatra and the construction of cities are also negative factors influencing the extinction of the species. According to research, the entire subspecies will soon be limited to only one fifth of the forest areas.
Sumatran Tiger Conservation
The species is very rare and is listed in the Red Book and the international Convention I CITES. In order to prevent the disappearance of a unique cat, as happened with the Javanese tiger, it is necessary to take timely measures and increase the population. Current conservation programs aim to double the number of Sumatran tigers in the next 10 years.
The Sumatran Tiger Project was established in the 1990s and is still active today. To protect the species, the President of Indonesia created a program in 2009 to reduce deforestation, and also allocated funds to save the Sumatran tigers. The Indonesian Forest Ministry is now working with the Australian Zoo to reintroduce the species into the wild.
Conservation research and development is aimed at finding alternative solutions to the economic problems of Sumatra, and as a result, the need for acacia and palm oil will be reduced. In the course of the study, it was found that buyers are willing to pay more money for margarine if it saves the habitat of the Sumatran tigers.
In 2007, local residents caught a pregnant tigress. Conservationists decided to transport her to the Bogor Safari Park on the island of Java. In 2011, part of the territory of Betet Island was allocated as a specialized reserve intended for the conservation of the species.
Sumatran tigers are kept in zoos where babies are raised, fed and treated. Some individuals are released into nature reserves to increase their numbers naturally. Feeding predators is a real show where they stand on their hind legs, which they would not have to do in the wild.
Hunting these predators is universally prohibited and punishable by law. Killing a Sumatran tiger in Indonesia is punishable by a fine of $7,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years. Poaching is the main reason that three times as many predators live in captivity than in the wild.
Along with other subspecies, genetic engineering scientists single out the Sumatran tiger as the most valuable among the rest, since its breed considered the cleanest. As a result of the long existence of individual populations in isolation from each other, animals have preserved the genetic code of their ancestors.