By Lee Poston
Ever heard of a Balinese Tiger? How about a Javan tiger?
No? That's not surprising. These two tiger sub-species went extinct decades ago thanks to massive habitat loss and poaching. The question is whether their cousins the Sumatran tigers, will soon join them.
The odds are not in their favor. As recently as 1978 more than 1,000 Sumatran tigers lived on Sumatra. But thanks to appallingly high deforestation and rampant poaching their numbers have dropped to around 400. The once-lush green island has lost more than half its forest cover since 1985.
According to TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring arm of WWF and IUCN, poachers kill at least 40 Sumatran tigers per year, and the killing is made that much easier as their habitat shrinks.
This also brings them into conflict with people, which often results in retaliatory killings when they attack livestock or villagers.
It's not hard to poach a tiger. A length of metal cable, a few strong branches and a little expertise in setting a snare can bag one pretty quickly.
As Philippe Cousteau demonstrates in the groundbreaking CNN series Expedition: Sumatra, these snares are simple but stunningly effective tiger killers. And there just aren't enough anti-poaching patrols to find all of the snares and the people who set them.
So is there hope for the tigers of Sumatra?
In short, yes. Using camera traps, scat surveys and other scientific tools WWF and its partners are able to estimate the population size and distribution of tigers across Sumatra. More....