Carnivore Conservation

Threatened predator on the equator: multi-point abundance estimates of the tiger Panthera tigris in central Sumatra

Sunartoa1 c1 p1, Marcella J. Kellya1, Sybille Klenzendorfa2, Michael R. Vaughana1, Zulfahmia3, M.B. Hutajulua4 and Karmila Parakkasia3

a1 Department of Fish & Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech, 106 Cheatham Hall, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061–0321, USA

a2 WWF, Washington, DC, USA

a3 WWF-Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia

a4 Balai Taman Nasional Tesso Nilo, Kab. Pelalawan, Riau, Indonesia


Information on spatial and temporal variation in abundance is crucial for effective management of wildlife. Yet abundance estimates for the Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger Panthera tigris sumatrae are lacking from Riau, the province historically believed to hold the largest percentage of this subspecies. Recently, this area has had one of the highest global rates of deforestation. Using camera traps we investigated tiger abundance across peatland, flat lowland, and hilly lowland forest types in the province, and over time, in the newly established Tesso Nilo National Park, central Sumatra. We estimated densities using spatially explicit capture–recapture, calculated with DENSITY, and traditional capture–recapture models, calculated with CAPTURE. With spatially explicit capture–recapture the lowest tiger density (0.34 ± SE 0.24 per 100 km2) was estimated in the hilly lowland forest of Rimbang Baling and the highest (0.87 ± SE 0.33 per 100 km2) in the flat lowland forest of the Park. Repeated surveys in the Park documented densities of 0.63 ± SE 0.28 in 2005 to 0.87 ± SE 0.33 per 100 km2 in 2008. Compared to traditional capture–recapture the spatially explicit capture–recapture approach resulted in estimates 50% lower. Estimates of tiger density from this study were lower than most previous estimates in other parts of Sumatra. High levels of human activity in the area appear to limit tigers. The results of this study, which covered areas and habitat types not previously surveyed, are important for overall population estimates across the island, provide insight into the response of carnivores to habitat loss, and are relevant to the interventions needed to save the tiger.

(Received May 05 2011)

(Revised July 06 2011)

(Accepted August 08 2011)


  • Camera trapping;
  • density;
  • human disturbance;
  • Indonesia;
  • Panthera tigris sumatrae ;
  • peatland;
  • Riau;
  • tiger


c1 (Corresponding author) E-mail s.sunarto@yahoo.com

p1 Current address: WWF-Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia