Felidae or cat animal group, consists of approximately 36 species and spread almost all over the world. The group is divided into three categories based on size: small cats, medium cats, and big cats. Especially on the island of Sumatra, there are six species of wild cats of various size groups. They are scattered in various types of habitats, from mangroves to mountains. Flat-headed cats, bobcats, and marbled cats are classified as small cats. Golden cats and clouded leopards are classified as medium cats. The only wild cat that is classified as a big cat is the tiger.
The Sumatran tiger is the only native tiger species left in Indonesia. Previously, there were three native tiger species from Indonesia, two of which, the Bali tiger and the Javan tiger, were declared extinct in the 1940s and 1980s. In fact, the Sumatran tiger is currently experiencing a population decline and is in risk of extinction. One of the causes is due to massive hunting and the loss of its natural habitat, the forest. In another study in India, it was stated that the over-hunting of ungulates directly affected tiger population.
Possessing a wide range of roaming, most of tiger’s life is used to explore to find prey, rest, reproduce, find shelter, and other activities. The range of tigers varies, depending on the subspecies of the tiger and the gender. For example, the Siberian Tiger has the widest range of ranges; males 1,385 km2 and females 390 km2. In India’s Nagarhole national park, the range for male tigers is 25.7 km2 and for females 16.5 km2. While in Indonesia, the roaming area of translocated male tigers reaches 236 km2.
Sumatran tigers have a low density. In several national parks in Sumatra, there are variations in tiger density within an area of 100 km2. For example, in a survey to determine tigers in an intensive protection area, in the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in 2015 it was estimated that around 3.2 individual tigers live in an area of 100 km2. Meanwhile, in Berbak–Sembilang National Park, the density of tigers is estimated at 1.2 per 100 km2. Estimated population density at one monitoring site in Kerinci Seblat National Park in the same year and area was 1.2 individuals.
The tiger population is completely dependent on preys, solitary life behavior, and a fairly wide home range. The results of the research in the BBSNP and TNKS areas showed a positive correlation between the presence of Sumatran tigers and unicolor deers, wild boars (Sus scrofa), and muntjak deers (Muntacus muntjak).
Tigers are territorial creatures, claiming a certain area as their own to survive and breed. The extent of this territory depends on environmental conditions, sex, age class, and the presence of prey. In general, the minimum area of a tiger’s territory is 15-20 km2. Each individual tiger has a different territory, the male territory area is generally larger and includes several female territories.
The other characteristics are cryptic and elusive. Cryptic is the nature of a creature that can disguise themselves. This trait is possessed by tigers to camouflage when hunting preys. A golden-yellow-haired tiger with black stripes is an almost perfect camouflage when stalking the prey. The pattern of tiger stripes blending in the dense trees with light and shadow makes it hard to spot. Meanwhile, the meaning of elusive in Indonesian is difficult to catch. The elusive nature of tigers manifests in them avoiding human gaze and interaction. The Kerinci Seblat Sumatran Tiger Conservation team (PHS-KS) even after more than a decade on patrol has rarely reported direct encounters with tigers. Likewise, at the PR-HSD ARSARI site, which has carried out rehabilitation for almost five years since its inception, also revealed the same thing. Observations of the medical team on tigers in semi-natural enclosures also showed them avoiding or hiding from caretakers.
The more we know, the more we come to love these beautiful kings of the forest. Let us take care of them.
*Panduan Pemantauan Populasi Harimau Sumatera, KLHK-2017