The Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program
A century ago, more than 100,000 tigers from eight sub-species were distributed across an area stretching from Turkey in the west across Asia to the eastern coast of Russia. Over the last 100 years, they have lost 93% of their historic range and 3 sub-species have become extinct: the Balinese tiger, the Caspian tiger and the Javanese tiger. Today, the global population is estimated to be less than 4,000 individuals.
Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) are a rare sub-species inhabiting the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Genetic tests have confirmed that they are genetically isolated from all mainland tigers because of a population separation caused by rising sea levels thousands of years ago. They are one of the smallest tiger sub-species and males have a very prominent ruff.
Sumatran tigers are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature because only around 600 individuals are estimated to remain in the world with sub-populations of no more than 50 individuals each, and a declining trend. Threats include habitat loss and fragmentation due to expanding palm oil and acacia plantations (tigers need large, contiguous forest blocks to survive), depletion of prey and trade in tiger body parts.
On January 31st, 2008 our female Sumatran tiger, Hannah, gave birth to baby Sylvester . His birth was considered to be a major success within the European Endangered Species Breeding Program for the preservation of this species. Unfortunately, his mother, Hannah, abandoned him a few weeks after birth and refused to nurse him and so he had to be hand-raised by our veterinary staff. Usually this is not a preferred course of action because hand-raised animals often experience problems later in life. However, given the critically endangered status of this species, the decision was made to do so in this case. Once Sylvester was weaned, he was transferred to a zoo in France as part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria's international breeding program for this species.