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Remarkable Images of Big Cats Urge Forest Protection

Camera traps caught extraordinary snapshots of five of the seven wild cat species found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. WWF scientists and field staff use cameras equipped with infrared triggers, called camera traps, to obtain critical data about wildlife and their habitats.

The images are a stark reminder of what could be lost to logging, plantations and illegal encroachment as four of the five species of cat caught on camera are listed as threatened by extinction.

WWF conducted a three-month survey in early 2011 of an unprotected forest corridor in the area known as Thirty Hills (or Bukit Tigapuluh in Indonesian). As a result, its camera traps produced 404 images of the wild cats:

  • 226 of the Sumatran tiger
  • 77 of the clouded leopard
  • 70 of the golden cat
  • 27 of the leopard cat
  • 4 of the marble cat

The tigers were found in an area designated as a “global priority Tiger Conservation Landscape,” in one of the last large blocks of lowland forest still left on the island. These remaining forests are under significant threat from rapid deforestation due to industrial logging for pulp and paper and illegal encroachment from palm oil plantations. Such large scale forest clearance not only wipes out trees, it destroys the homes of indigenous tribes and other local residents of Sumatra’s forests.

WWF has been working in this region for years, and in 1995 helped establish Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, a 330,000-acre protected area in the Thirty Hills region. These recent photos reinforce the need to expand the park to protect the wildlife living in the less hilly regions just outside the park’s borders. Expanding the size of the park or managing the area as a restoration scheme would ensure tigers continue to have room to roam, a crucial element for their health and breeding.