Deforestation Poses Threat to Sumatran Tiger Population

By Audrey Smith

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Photo courtesy of: World Wildlife Fund

Sumatran tigers, a critically endangered species, are facing severe population decline in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Indonesia. This is due largely to habitat loss as deforestation becomes more prominent in the park.

Sumatran tigers are a key component to the tropical forest ecosystem in Indonesia.

In addition to having widespread effects on lower levels of the food chain, they are the only tiger subspecies in the country that has not already been driven to extinction.

Because it is so essential to maintain the Sumatran tiger population, the effects of deforestation on their numbers have been widely studied of late.

One common approach is to use satellites to monitor deforestation and Sumatran tiger populations. However, the approach has been proven flawed due to the fact that many aspects of deforestation are inadequately examined by satellite and require other means of observation.

As such, one team has taken a new approach.

Using a global positioning system and a digital elevation model, researchers were able to analyze changes in the landscape over time. Their initial evaluation was then used to perform calculations to determine the rate of deforestation in the park.

Following inspection of deforestation, the team documented and counted tigers. This was done using cameras and the fact that individual tigers have unique striping.

The team found that the forest in Bukit Barisan Selatan is rapidly disappearing—particularly in the lowland forest. This habitat is particularly important to the survival of the Sumatran tiger and is disappearing at a rate of 8.34 km^2 per year.

As one might expect, the tiger population in the park is also on the decline.

During the time the study was conducted, the population dropped from 80 to 36 tigers. This figure does not just represent a smaller number of tigers but a lower population density (1.88 tigers per 100 km^2 to .97 tigers per 100 km^2).

The results of this study show us that population and population density of Sumatran tigers are correlated with forest area in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. As the forest disappears, there could be serious implications for the park’s ecosystems and the presence of tigers in Indonesia.

It is clear that measures need be taken to prevent further deforestation.

Reference:

Suyadi, Nengah S. Jaya, Antonius B. Wijanarto, and Haryo T. Wibisono. “Deforestation and It Is Implications for Sumatran Tigers in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Sumatra.” Jurnal Biologi Indonesia (2013): 73-81. Web. 8 Oct. 2013.

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