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Su­ma­tran tigers are in­creas­ingly un­der threat due to their habi­tat be­ing eaten away by de­for­esta­tion, a year-long study by re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia has found.

Though over­all num­bers of the tigers have grad­u­ally im­proved over the last two decades, the jun­gle in which they live is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­creas­ing threat from de­for­esta­tion. It ap­pears that 17 per cent of the tigers’ en­vi­ron­ment was logged be­tween 2000 and 2012, mostly to make way for palm oil plan­ta­tions. More­over, the team found that tiger num­bers are 50 per cent higher in ar­eas of un­logged for­est, mak­ing preser­va­tion of the jun­gle a high pri­or­ity if Su­ma­tran tigers are to be saved from suf­fer­ing the same fate as tigers on the neigh­bour­ing is­lands of Java, Bali and Sin­ga­pore, which all went ex­tinct dur­ing the 20th Cen­tury.

The re­searchers spent a year trekking through re­mote Su­ma­tran forests, mount­ing hun­dreds of cam­era traps to video the an­i­mals when­ever they passed. They found that a Su­ma­tran tiger’s home range is roughly 150 square miles, around the same size as the Isle of Wight – much larger than that of other tigers. The team dis­cov­ered that there are only two habi­tats large enough to host more than 30 breed­ing fe­males, the min­i­mum num­ber re­quired to sus­tain pop­u­la­tions over the long term.

“Safe­guard­ing the re­main­ing ex­panses of pri­mary forests is now ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal to en­sur­ing tigers can per­sist in­def­i­nitely on Su­ma­tra,” said re­searcher Dr Mathias Tobler. “Large-scale re­for­esta­tion is un­likely. If we are go­ing to save Su­ma­tran tigers in the wild, the time to act is now.”

ABOVE: In­di­vid­ual Su­ma­tran tigers

are iden­ti­fied by their unique pat­tern of stripes

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