Crouching tigers, hidden prey: Sumatran tiger and prey populations in a tropical forest landscape


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We examine the abundance and distribution of Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) and nine prey species in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on Sumatra, Indonesia. Our study is the first to demonstrate that the relative abundance of tigers and their prey, as measured by camera traps, is directly related to independently derived estimates of densities for these species. The tiger population in the park is estimated at 40–43 individuals. Results indicate that illegal hunting of prey and tigers, measured as a function of human density within 10 km of the park, is primarily responsible for observed patterns of abundance, and that habitat loss is an increasingly serious problem. Abundance of tigers, two mouse deer (Tragulus spp.), pigs (Sus scrofa) and Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor) was more than four times higher in areas with low human population density, while densities of red muntjac (Muntiacus muntjac) and pigtail macaques (Macaca nemestrina) were twice as high. Malay tapir (Tapirus indicus) and argus pheasant (Argusianus argus), species infrequently hunted, had higher indices of relative abundance in areas with high human density. Edge effects associated with park boundaries were not a significant factor in abundance of tigers or prey once human density was considered. Tigers in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, and probably other protected areas throughout Sumatra, are in imminent danger of extinction unless trends in hunting and deforestation are reversed.