First images of tiger with cubs in Central Sumatra

EoF Press Release / 07 January 2010

WWF Camera Traps Capture First Images of Tiger with Cubs in Central Sumatra

Proof of Breeding Celebrated, But Cubs’ Habitat Urgently Needs Protection

Media Release   7 January 2010

Jakarta, Indonesia – Camera traps deep in the Sumatran jungle have captured first-time images of a rare female tiger and her cubs, giving researchers unique insight into the elusive tiger’s behaviour.

After a month in operation, specially designed video cameras installed by WWF-Indonesia’s researchers seeking to record tigers in the Sumatran jungle caught the mother tiger and her cubs on film as they stopped to sniff and check out the camera trap.

There are as few as 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild and they are under relentless pressure from poaching and clearing of their habitat. After five years of studying tigers using wildlife-activated camera traps set up in the forest, these are the first images of a tiger with offspring.

“Seeing this footage within just one month of setting up the new video cameras was a real boost for our team in the field,” said Karmila Parakkasi, the leader of WWF-Indonesia’s Sumatran tiger research team. “We are very concerned though, because the territory of this tigress and its cubs is being rapidly cleared by two global paper companies, palm oil plantations, encroachers, and illegal loggers. Will the cubs survive to adulthood in this environment?”

The discovery comes as WWF prepares to launch a campaign on 14 Feb. 2010, the start of the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar, with a flourish of activities in various parts of the world during the week.

The year-long campaign aims to raise the bar for tiger conservation through securing high-level political commitment at a Heads of State Tiger Summit in September in Vladivostok, to be hosted by Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and supported by WWF and other partners of the Global Tiger Initiative

With world’s wild tiger numbers as low as 3,200, more must be done to ensure this charismatic species and flagship for Asia's biological diversity, culture and economy is not lost forever.

This Year of the Tiger could be the last opportunity to save this iconic species. In addition, protecting the tiger will benefit countless other species sharing the tiger’s habitat, and the human communities that rely on natural areas for benefits such as water and food.

In addition to the tigress and cubs’ footage, the video camera also captured images of a male Sumatran tiger and its prey, wild boar and deer, as well as many other species such as tapirs, macaques, porcupines and civets.

Infrared-triggered camera traps, which are activated upon sensing body heat in their path, have become an important tool to identify which areas of the forest are used by tigers, and to identify individual animals to monitor the population. WWF has operated dozens of cameras throughout the central Sumatran province of Riau, documenting tiger habitat in great detail.

“Maintaining these cameras is a real challenge because you have to pick the right spot to capture wildlife photos while also protecting the cameras from theft by illegal loggers and poachers,” Parakkasi said.

Parakkasi and her team first captured still images of the tigress and its cub in July 2009 through still camera traps. The photos were, however, not very clear.

“We were not so sure how many cubs there were,” she said.

Video camera traps were then installed in September at the same location to clarify the initial findings.

WWF’s tiger research team set up four of the video camera traps in known tiger routes in a forested “wildlife corridor” that allows animals to move between two protected areas in central Sumatra – Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve in Riau and Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in both Riau and Jambi provinces. But much of the forest in the corridor itself is being cleared by paper companies and palm oil plantations or slated for clearing, putting the tigers’ future in question.

“When these cubs are old enough to leave their mother, which will be soon, they will have to find their own territory,” said Ian Kosasih, WWF-Indonesia’s Forest Programme Director. “Where will they go? As tiger habitat shrunk with so much of the surrounding area having been cleared, the tigers will have a very hard time avoiding encounters with people. That will then be very dangerous for everyone involved.”

“With this clear scientific evidence of tiger presence, WWF calls for establishment of the area between Rimbang Baling and Bukit Tigapuluh forests as a protected wildlife corridor that implement best management practices,” Kosasih said.

WWF is also urging the paper companies operating in the area – Sinar Mas/APP and APRIL – as well as palm oil plantations to help protect all high conservation value forests under their control that are the habitat of tigers and other endangered species. They should stop forest clearing and building roads through these natural habitats that then provide poachers and encroachers with easy access.

WWF is currently working with the central and provincial governments to agree on priority areas for restoration, and implement land-use plans that promote sustainable development and ensure protection of remaining natural forest to give tigers the space to avoid an escalation of human-wildlife conflicts.

For further information:

1. The video footage and high-resolution photos can be downloaded from
2. For more information and maps, visit