Look out for the Sumatran tiger...

As you make your way around the peaceful island of Bali, you will come across a herd of banteng; a wild forest-dwelling member of the cattle family. You may never have heard of this species before your journey through IslAs you make your way through the bamboo forest, and through the tiger tunnel, look out for any clues that indicate you’re approaching one of the most powerful and striking animals in the world: the Sumatran tiger.ands, but they’re a precious species and are quite shy animals.

Sumatran tiger at Chester Zoo

When you’re out in the field it’s important to keep a look out for signs of tigers as these big cats are so elusive, you’ll see the evidence before you actually see any. Things to look out for are: scratch marks on a tree or prints in the mud. These are big indicators that you’re in a tiger’s territory.

Sumatran tigers are extremely good hunters and will travel miles to catch their prey, stalking it until the opportunity to catch it off guard appears – just waiting for the right moment to pounce. So they’d easily sneak up on you before you even knew they were there!

Who said cats don’t like water? A tactic tigers use when they’re hunting is to chase their prey into the water – you may not think it, but they are excellent swimmers. Sumatran tigers have slightly webbed paws, making them faster and stronger than their prey in water.

Sumatran tiger

The stripes on a tiger are like a human’s fingerprint – no two are the same – which is a good way for conservationists to identify them in the wild. 

It’s devastating to see that despite being listed as a critically endangered species and protected by law in Indonesia, they are still being hunted and killed purposefully by poachers. The tiger’s habitat is shrinking by the day as the forests are being destroyed for agriculture and palm oil plantations, not only does this make it easier for poachers to capture them, it also means they’re losing their food too. 

There are less than 500 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. The remaining population is hanging on to survival by a thread, and without conservation efforts their future could look similar to that of the Javan and Balinese tiger species: extinct.

Below, Chester Zoo Carnivore Keeper, Lucy Manning, tells us more about Sumatran tigers and their habitat at Chester Zoo:

Can you tell us an interesting fact about Sumatran tigers?
“My favourite tiger fact is that they have stripy skin. Each tiger’s stripe pattern is unique to them and even if you shaved their fur off, they would retain that unique identity. Having worked with several litters of cubs, I find it very interesting to see their different personalities and how traits and markings can be passed down from parent to cubs.”

Has anything changed since the tigers moved to their new habitat?
“Our adult male tiger, and father of the cubs, has moved on to another zoo as part of the European Breeding Programme. (Read more about Fabi’s move here.) The cubs have had their first birthday, grown their adult teeth and are getting bigger by the day. Jaya, in particular, is huge now! He weighs nearly as much as Kirana (mother of the cubs). They have certainly grown into their new habitat and been very destructive with the plants and trees. We’re looking forward to seeing them in the pool more as we move closer to summer!”

In your opinion how special is this species of tiger?
“All sub-species of tiger are facing extinction in the wild; their numbers have been decreasing at an alarming rate for some time. Sumatran tigers are classified as critically endangered and there are as few as 350 left in the wild. This is due to factors such as their habitat being destroyed to make more space for humans to live or to grow crops, poaching and illegal wildlife trade in tiger skins and body parts for traditional medicines. Sumatran tigers are smaller than the other sub-species, making them more agile and fluid in their movements. They can also be very sneaky and are good at hiding.”