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Are Sumatran Tigers Extinct? Science Thinks No

Image by scheriton via Depositphotos

It’s because of a random strand of hair discovered somewhere in the dense Indonesian rainforest that scientists believe Javan Tigers still roam this planet. Declared extinct in 2008, many had lost hope of their return, but then something miraculous occurred. However, it took time.

Introduction

After discovering a piece of hair in 2019, it wasn’t until March 2022 that it was taken in for genetic analysis. The Indonesian Biology Research Centre for National Research and Innovation (BRIN) believed it resembled — after receiving the result of 97% similarity — the fur of a Sumatran tiger.

This sparked a frenzy across the big cat community and an unfortunate paradox. On one hand, there’s the uplifting proof that they’re still around. However, if this is the case, their days are still numbered; only a few are probably left. Severe conservation is needed.

tiger
Tiger relaxing. Image by Ralphs_Fotos via Pixabay

Few & Far Between

Another thought one could evoke is whether they have mastered the art of disguise and can avoid human eyes. Sumatra is human to one of the world’s largest rainforests, widely coined as the earth’s third lung.

However, severe deforestation has deteriorated a once bountiful ecosystem, home to a plethora of exotic animals, from Sumatran orangutang and rhinos to Sumatran tigers — their world has shrunk significantly. Animal populations used to thrive, but not anymore; each animal listed above is labeled ‘critically endangered.

Image by scheriton via Depositphotos

And what’s even more worrisome is that these animals can only be found in Sumatra, meaning if extinction looms, there’s no going back. Although many Indonesian scientists vowed that their tigers had passed the brink, that the official population had reached zero — not anymore. 

Characteristics of Sumatran Tigers

Image by wandee007 via Depositphotos

A big cat known for its stealth, signature stripes and razor-sharp teeth, Sumatran tigers, on average weigh between 220 to 310 pounds and measures around 6 to 7 feet in length, making them one the smaller tiger species.

While many believe their distinctive orange coat and black stripes make them easy to spot in the jungle, it actually works as the perfect camouflage, able to blend in with its surroundings.

Boasting a might stature, they’re as agile as they’re strong, hunting the nimble likes of deer and wild boar. You’ll also notice their elongated facial features, along with large, rounded ears, aid in acute hearing and precise detection of prey.

Sumatran Tiger Habitat

A closeup of a Sumatran Tiger at Point Defiance Zoo. Image by JeffWesthead via Depositphotos.

Residing exclusively in Sumatra, Indonesia’s biggest island, they’ve manage to adapted to an unforgiving environment, expertly traversing through dense foliage — unseen and unheard. Perhaps, well enough to remain ‘extinct’ from humans.

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