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Sunda Tigers: Genetically isolated by the sea level

Also known as Sumatran tigers, these are the smallest tiger subspecies. These also tend to be more bearded and maned than the other subspecies. Once they prowled across several parts of the Sunda islands in Indonesia. Today, about 400 tigers survive and are found only in Sumatra. They are listed as critically endangered in the IUCN red list.

Sunda tigers are distinguished by heavy black stripes on their orange coats, giving them the perfect camouflage to mimic light reflection on the forest floor. Accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching mean this noble creature could end up extinct like its Javan and Balinese counterparts.

Sumatran tigers were previously known as Panthera tigris sumatrae but in 2017 the IUCN Cat Specialist Group revised tiger taxonomy, recognising just two tiger subspecies: Panthera tigris sondaica, comprising the Sumatran and (now extinct) Javan and Balinese populations, and Pantheratigris tigris, comprising the Bengal, Malayan, Indochinese, South Chinese, Siberian and (extinct) Caspian tiger populations.

Genetic profiling shows that the Sumatran Tiger is different from the other mainland species. The theory is that they were isolated from the other species thousands of years ago due to a rise in the sea level.

One of the main threats to Sumatran tigers is poaching.

Hunters trap or shoot them for their skin, bones and canines, which are in high demand as status symbols, primarily overseas, and for use in East Asian traditional medicine.

Habitat loss due to expansion of oil palm, coffee and acacia plantations, and smallholder encroachment also threaten these big cats.
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