While most news about tigers is on their dramatic decline (down to fewer than 3,200 in the wild) and increasing threats to their long-term survival, a new study, published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, and which Panthera’s Tiger Program Director Dr. Joseph Smith is a co-author, provides a glimmer of hope for Indonesia’s last subspecies, the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae).
Over the past three years, eight NGOs* joined forces with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry to carry out the first ever Sumatra-wide survey of the presence of tigers. The study found that over 70 percent of the forest areas surveyed currently are occupied by tigers, although the cats’ status varied greatly between the different landscapes.
“The survey results provide an excellent benchmark against which to measure how our future conservation efforts are benefiting tigers on the ground,” said Dr. Smith.
Lead author Hariyo Wibisono of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Chairman of the Sumatran Tiger Forum (HarimauKita), which coordinated the initiative, said, “This survey is a milestone for Sumatran tigers. The results provide the most up-to-date and reliable information ever collected for this Critically Endangered subspecies and is the first time that such a large number of organizations have worked together so effectively.”
Effective conservation measures include actively preventing the poaching of tigers and their prey by bolstering intensive law enforcement efforts to tackle poaching threats throughout the landscape.
“While the future for wild tigers often appears bleak and is certainly wrought with challenges, this survey shows us that hope still remains,” Dr. Smith explained.
* The nine organizations (including the government and eight NGO’s) directly involved in the surveys are the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, Wildlife Conservation Society, Fauna & Flora International, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology/University of Kent, World Wildlife Fund, Zoological Society of London, Sumatran Tiger Conservation and Protection, Leuser International Foundation, and Rhino Foundation of Indonesia.