The Sumatran Tiger is a species that Steve Irwin was passionate about and chose to focus on with his Wildlife Warriors in the Asia region.
The Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The wild population is estimated at between 400 and 500 animals, occurring predominantly in the island’s national parks. Recent genetic testing has revealed the presence of unique genetic markers, indicating that it may develop into a separate species, if it is not made extinct. This has led to suggestions that the Sumatran Tiger should have greater priority for conservation than any other subspecies. Habitat destruction is the main threat to the existing tiger population (logging continues even in the supposedly protected national parks), but 66 tigers were recorded as being shot and killed between 1998 and 2000—nearly 20% of the total population.
The Sumatran Tiger is the smallest of all tiger subspecies, and the Siberian Tiger is the largest. Male Sumatran Tigers average 8 feet in length from head to tail and weigh about 265 pounds. Females average 7 feet in length and weigh about 200 pounds. Its stripes are narrower than other subspecies of tigers’ stripes, and it has a more bearded and maned appearance, especially the males. Its small size makes it easier to move through the jungle. It has webbing between its toes that when spread, makes them very fast swimmers. It has been known to drive hoofed prey into the water, especially if the prey animal is a slow swimmer.
Tigers can breed at any time of year, though they typically breed during the winter or spring, and the gestation period is about 103 days. Normally they have 2 or 3 cubs, but can have as many as 6. The cubs are born with their eyes closed and weigh approximately 3 pounds (1.36 kg) each. Their eyes usually open by the tenth day, though some zoo born cubs have been recorded to have their eyes open at birth. They only consume milk for the first 8 weeks and after they can start trying harder food but still suckle for 5 or 6 months. The cubs first leave the den at 2 weeks old and learn to hunt at 6 months old. They can completely hunt for themselves at 18 months and at 2 years they are fully independent. They can live for about 15 years in the wild, and 20 in captivity.