Sumatran tigers, found exclusively on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, are on the brink of extinction. By optimistic estimates, perhaps 400 individuals survive. But the exact the number and locations of the island's dwindling tiger population has been up for debate.
Virginia Tech and World Wildlife Fund researchers have found that tigers in central Sumatra live at very low densities, lower than previously believed, according to a study in the April 2013 issue of Oryx -- The International Journal of Conservation.
The findings by Sunarto, who earned his doctorate from Virginia Tech in 2011, and co-researchers Marcella Kelly, an associate professor of wildlife in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and Erin Poor of East Lansing, Mich., a doctoral student studying wildlife science and geospatial environmental analysis in the college, suggest that high levels of human activity limit the tiger population.
Researchers studied areas and habitat types not previously surveyed, which could inform interventions needed to save the tiger.
"Tigers are not only threatened by habitat loss from deforestation and poaching; they are also very sensitive to human disturbance," said Sunarto, a native of Indonesia, where people typically have one name. "They cannot survive in areas without adequate understory, but they are also threatened in seemingly suitable forests when there is too much human activity." More....