Sumatran Tiger Fact File
Panthera tigris sumatrae
The smallest of the biggest cats!
Sumatran tigers are the smallest subspecies of tiger. Tigers are recognized as the largest species of big cat.
A female Sumatran tiger will give birth to between two and six cubs. They remain with their mother while she teaches them how to hunt.
They are threatened through habitat loss and degradation along with hunting.
Read on to learn more about these majestic mammals.
What does the Sumatran Tiger look like?
The Sumatran tiger is the smallest species of tiger. Their small size helps them to move through the jungle much easier than the bigger tiger species.
The coat pattern is made up of orange, black and white stripes. The stripes of the Sumatran tiger are much closer together than in other tiger species which helps them with camouflage. The habitat that the tiger usually lives in has tall grass which their stripes blend well with.
They have large, strong front paws with five toes and sharp claws which can be retracted while they walk which helps to keep them sharp. The paws are webbed which help them to swim.
On either side of the face are long whiskers. Around the face is a short mane of longer hairs.
The average length and weight of a male Sumatran tiger is 2.4m (8 feet) and 120kg (265lbs). While an average female Sumatran tiger measures 2.2m (7ft) and weighs 90kg (200lbs). At the shoulder they stand 75cm (29.5in) tall.
How does the Sumatran Tiger survive in its habitat?
Their small size helps them to move easily through the dense forest which they inhabit.
As they like to swim this species is equipped with webbing between the toes.
What does the Sumatran Tiger eat?
The Sumatran tiger is a carnivore (meat eater). They generally hunt larger mammals including cattle, goats, wild boar and deer as well as smaller animals such as fish, crocodiles and birds.
They are slow and patient hunters and will often stalk their prey for 20 to 30 minutes before making a move. They attack from the side or the back when the prey is in close range using their large teeth and strong jaws to suffocate it.
The Sumatran tiger will make a kill about once or twice a week and eat as much of the prey as they can. They will then use their paws to cover the leftover prey with grass and dirt so that it is hidden. The tiger will then come back to the prey over the next couple of days to snack on the leftovers.
Only around 10% of their hunts will lead to a successful kill.
Where do you find the Sumatran Tiger?
The Sumatran tiger is only found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
They are the last remaining tiger in Indonesia. Previously the Balinese and Javanese tigers were also found there but these were pushed to extinction in the 1900s.
Where can the Sumatran Tiger survive?
Their habitat takes in areas of mountain forest, lowland forest and peat swamp forests.
How does the Sumatran Tiger produce its young?
The Sumatran tiger can breed at any time of the year but they will generally mate in the winter or spring.
After a gestation period of 103 days the female will give birth to two to six cubs. The cubs are born blind and helpless and usually weigh about 1kg (2lbs).
For the first eight weeks of the cubs life they eat only their mothers milk then they will be introduced to eating meat. They will continue to suckle from their mother for a further 5 to 6 months.
The cubs will leave the den for the first time when they are about 2 months old but they will not learn how to kill prey until they are about 6 months old.
They will hunt for themselves at about 18 months old and will be fully independent by about 2 years of age.
What does the Sumatran Tiger do during its day?
The Sumatran tiger is largely a solitary animal and they will use their claws to scratch on trees to mark their territory. The male will not let another male stay within his territory but he will let other tigers move through his territory. The female only uses her territory for hunting and the territory of a single male can overlap with the territory of several females.
They will come out to hunt at dusk and they can sometimes travel more than 32km (20 miles) in a night.
Sumatran tigers can run at up to 64.3km/h (40mph).
A range of vocalizations are made by the Sumatran tiger. These include roars, snuffs and chuffs. The roar is an aggressive vocalization while the chuff shows they are content.
Predators and Threats
What stops the Sumatran Tiger from surviving and thriving?
Tigers represent the apex predator in their environment and the main predator which would worry them is humans.
Populations of the Sumatran tiger are decreasing in the wild. Their total estimated population is less than 350.
The Sumatran tiger has become critically endangered due to hunting for their body parts but more importantly due to habitat destruction. Sumatra has had huge agricultural growth. This means that the tiger population has been fragmented. Most that remain live in five national parks and two game reserves while about 100 live in unprotected areas.
The tigers that live in unprotected areas are very vulnerable as that area will soon be lost to agriculture and they are also in danger from hunters.
Another threat is the loss of suitable prey. Some are also hunted or captured live.
Tigers are one of only two cats that like being in the water. The other is South America’s jaguar.
Males and females mark their territories by spraying scent on trees and bushes.
Each tiger has its own stripe pattern so you can tell an individual tiger by their unique stripes. Their stripes are found on the skin and if their fur is shaved the stripe pattern is still visible.
A 2017 study suggested recognizing just two subspecies of tiger instead of the current nine. As such Panthera tigris sumatrae would be recognized as Panthera tigris sondaica along with Panthera tigris balica. The remaining tiger subspecies would be recognized as one subspecies known as Panthera tigris tigris.
At present the nine subspecies model is still used in many zoos and documentaries and as such we have retained this page with that taxonomy. If this suggested model gains widespread adoption we will update the page.
Linkie, M., Wibisono, H.T., Martyr, D.J. & Sunarto, S. 2008. Panthera tigris ssp. sumatrae. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T15966A5334836. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T15966A5334836.en. Downloaded on 24 May 2020.
Tiger.org.au. 2022. Sumatran Tiger Facts – International Tiger Project. [online] Available at: <https://www.tiger.org.au/tigers/sumatran-tiger-facts/> [Accessed 7 January 2022].
Adelaide Zoo. 2022. Sumatran Tiger Facts & Information – Adelaide Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.adelaidezoo.com.au/animals/sumatran-tiger/> [Accessed 7 January 2022].
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