An astonishing total of 12 tigers, six in each family, were recorded by the camera traps in just two months.
Karmila Parakkasi, who leads WWF’s tiger research team in Sumatra, said, “Our team was thrilled to discover 47 tiger images in our camera traps, from which we identified six unique individuals. That was the highest number of tigers and tiger images obtained in the first month of sampling we’ve ever experienced. And then the results from the second month were even more impressive — not just one tiger family but two, with another six tigers.”
Adding to the success of the camera traps was the discovery that a video camera trap in the same area also captured extremely rare footage of three young tiger siblings playfully chasing a leaf.
The forest where the tiger images were recorded is designated a ‘Global Priority Tiger Conservation Landscape.’
Located in the Riau and Jambi provinces in Central Sumatra, Bukit Tigapuluh is one of six areas that the government of Indonesia pledged to protect at the tiger summit in Russia last November.
Pulp and paper industries threaten tiger habitat
However, despite the pledge from government, the forest in Bukit Tigapuluh is under imminent threat of being cleared for the pulp and paper industry.
Since 2004, 205,460 hectares of forest in Bukit Tigapuluh has been lost to pulp and paper and the palm oil industries.
Worryingly, the tigers recorded by the WWF range in natural forest within a land concession belonging to a subsidiary of Barito Timber Pacific. The company could clear the forest to supply the wood to Asia Pulp & Paper, of Sinar Mas Group, as soon as pending permits are granted by the government.
It is estimated that as few as 400 Sumatran tigers survive in the wild.
Speaking about the success of the camera traps in Bukit Tigapuluh, Parakkasi adds, “What’s unclear is whether we found so many tigers because we’re getting better at locating our cameras or because the tigers’ habitat is shrinking so rapidly here that they are being forced into sharing smaller and smaller bits of forests.”
Anwar Purwoto, director of WWF-Indonesia’s Forest and Species Program, says that the WWF discoveries “Confirms the extreme importance of these forests in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem and its wildlife corridor.”
“WWF calls for all concessions operating in this area to abandon plans to clear this forest and protect areas with high conservation value. We also urge the local, provincial and central government to take into consideration the importance of this corridor and manage it as part of Indonesia’s commitments to protecting biodiversity.”
See the video of the tiger cubs playing
Find out more about the tiger on ARKive
Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author