Sumatran Tigers: Everything You Need To Know

There are only 6 different subspecies of tigers living in the world, with almost 80% of this once-dominant species being found in India. One much-loved species of tiger is the Sumatran Tiger. 

Also the smallest species of tiger, the Sumatran tiger has a rich history and a number of interesting qualities and features. For starters, the Sumatran tiger is the only remaining island living tiger in the whole of Indonesia. 

Sumatran Tigers: Everything You Need To Know

It is interesting facts like this, along with the tiger’s obvious beauty that captivates people, making them want to know more.

The fact you’ve stumbled upon this post would suggest you’re also intrigued by the Sumatran tiger and want to learn more.

If that is the case, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we will take an in-depth look at all things Sumatran tiger. We will show you where they live, what they eat, their unique behaviors, and also discuss the current threats to their population.

If you want to learn more, be sure to keep reading!

Sumatran Tiger Profile

Scientific Name: Panthera tigris sumatrae

Animal Type: Mammal

Average Lifespan In Captivity: 20 years

Average Lifespan In The Wild: 15 years

Diet: Carnivore

Population: Less than 600

Current Status: Critically Endangered

Average Length: Up to 8 ft

Average Weight: Up to 260 lbs

Location: Sumatra, Indonesia

The Sumatran tiger is the smallest subspecies of tigers. This is believed to be the case because this tiger species evolved on a smaller island. Commonly referred to as the Sundra tiger, it is also the darkest species of tiger. 

Unlike other tigers, the Sumatran tiger has darker orange fur and thick dark stripes all over its body. Compared to other types of tigers, this species also tends to be more maned and bearded.

The Sumatran tiger will only ever reach 8 feet in length and weigh no more than 260 pounds.

Due to poaching and deforestation, it is believed less than 600 of these majestic species of big cats still live in the wild. The remaining Sumatran tigers can only be found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

It is here the Sumatran tiger inhabits a large landscape that ranges from mountain forests and low-lying rainforests to sub-mountain and peat forests. 

As a carnivore, the Sumatran tiger hunts the largest of mammals that live within its habitat. Despite its smaller size, this tiger is still more than capable of effortlessly taking down a large deer, tapir, and wild boar.

They may even eat smaller animals like monkeys and birds on occasion.

Hunting And Diet

As we briefly mentioned above, the Sumatran tiger, like all other species of tiger is a carnivore. While the tiger may look beautiful and cute, it is actually one of the fiercest predators on the earth and it has to be. 

To survive, the Sumatran tiger has to be able to hunt effectively. If they don’t, they won’t eat, it really is as simple as that. 

Luckily, the Sumatran tiger has power, speed, and stealth on its side. Despite reaching speeds up to 40mph when necessary, this species of tiger can only sustain speed for a short amount of time. As a result, it prefers to ambush its prey. 

Thanks to the tiger’s soft paw pads, it can slowly and almost silently sneak up on its prey before striking in an instant. Amazingly, the Sumatran tiger can even imitate the noise of some deer in order to lure them into a trap before pouncing. 

Only 1 in 10 tiger hunts are successful, so more often than not a tiger will only eat once a week. That may not seem a lot, but just one kill will give the tiger approximately 88 lbs of meat.



The Sumatran tiger’s habitat has been massively reduced in recent years, with some Sumatran tigers having to trek up to 18 miles a day in order to find their prey. This is a result of illegal deforestation.

The Sumatran tiger lives on the large island of Sumatra in western Indonesia. For those that don’t know, Indonesia is found in Asia.

On Sumatra, the remaining 500 to 600 Sumatran tigers share lowland forests, mountain forests, and national parks.

The highest population of Sumatran tigers can be found in Gunung Leuser National Park. Approximately 120 tigers live here. 

The climate the tigers live within is generally very tropical. The humid rainforests are full of life, thick vegetation, and incredibly tall trees.

In the rainforest, the Sumatran tiger lives alongside orangutans, rhinos, and elephants, although they don’t commonly cross paths.

To protect the tiger’s habitat, laws have been put in place to prevent further deforestation and rainforest destruction.


The two biggest threats the remaining 600 or fewer Sumatran tigers face are poaching and habitat loss. These are the two reasons this species of tiger is already critically endangered. 

The continued expansion and increase in the number of palm oil plantations throughout Sumatra are responsible for a 20% loss in the Sumatran tiger population.

The reason for the continued development of palm oil plantations is down to how much palm oil is used. Palm oil is found in almost every food product we buy as well as a large variety of hair and beauty products too.

Aside from tigers being killed in the process of deforestation, the loss of prey is a major contributing factor directly linked to the loss of rainforest.

Tiger poaching takes place wherever tigers are found. In Sumatra, tigers are poached for their skin, bones, and teeth. Aside from their high value, Sumatran tiger bones are also used in ancient Chinese medicine.

Tiger skins are usually used as a form of decoration, and tiger teeth are turned into jewelry.

Sadly, both deforestation and poaching also happens in protected areas.

Conservation Efforts

Currently, a host of different organizations and charities are trying desperately to stop the rapid decline in Sumatran tiger numbers.

Along with increasing the size of protected reserves, charities are ensuring money is available for anti-poaching rangers. These rangers are tasked with keeping the reserves free of any poachers. 

The money raised by the charities goes towards paying the rangers as well as supplying them with basic necessities to carry out their jobs safely. 

Religion is also playing a key part in the battle against the Sumatran tiger extinction. Indonesia’s biggest religious body announced a religious decree known as a fatwa.

This fatwa is used to raise awareness that hunting the Sumatran tiger isn’t only illegal by law, but also by religious law as well. 

Other conservation efforts are aimed at improving sustainable practices within the tiger’s habitat. By doing this, the Sumatran tiger’s habitat stays protected and local people can learn to coexist with the species.

Fun Facts About The Sumatran Tiger

Fun Facts About The Sumatran Tiger

Here are some interesting facts you probably never knew about the Sumatran tiger. Some of these may surprise you.

They Love The Water

Unlike our domestic cats, the Sumatran tiger loves the water. In fact, they will frequently spend a couple of hours in the water playing and swimming. This species of tiger will also use the water to hunt, move to another part of the forest, drink, or simply cool off.

They Existed 2 Million Years Ago

The earliest fossils ever found show that the tiger that we know of today was already walking the world 2 million years ago.

Their Pee Smells Great

This one may seem pretty crazy, but tiger pee is believed to smell really nice. The smell is often compared to that of buttered popcorn.

Personally, we wouldn’t want to get close enough to find out. If you can smell tiger pee, you’re probably going to have other things on your mind.

Cubs Are Born Blind

Sumatran tiger cubs are actually born completely blind. Only after a week or so do they start to gain their sight. Before then, they rely solely on their mother’s scent to get around.

They Have Narrow Stripes

Sumatran tigers don’t only have the darkest fur and the darkest stripes, they also have the narrowest stripes of any type of tiger too. They have evolved with these stripes as they help the tiger blend into its surroundings in the Indonesian forest. 

They Have Different Types Of Whiskers

The Sumatran tiger has five different types of whiskers. Each of these whiskers picks up on different things as they make their way through the jungle.

Strong Bite

You definitely don’t want to get bitten by a Sumatran tiger. This species of tiger can bite down with a whopping force of 1,000 pounds. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, they are also believed to be capable of decapitating prey with just one swipe of their paw.

Final Thoughts

That concludes our post on everything you need to know about the Sumatran tiger. Hopefully, now you’ve read our guide, you know a lot more about this wonderful species of big cat. 

The Sumatran tiger is a special tiger with a rich history. However, recent threats have caused its population to decline. Unless we change something quickly, this beautiful predator won’t have a future. 

By working together we can learn more about this species and preserve its future. We hope you enjoyed this guide.

Joe Edwards