Global community feels the loss of the Sumatran Tiger, Mohan


Mohan the Sumatran tiger reclining in the Asian Forests Sanctuary in the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (LILITH VAN RY / La Plaza Photo)

There are many declining animal populations around the planet today, but one of the most endangered species is the Sumatran tiger. Sumatran tigers made their home in the Sunda Islands of Indonesia. Due to their extinction on Bali (1937) and Java (1950s), the only Sunda tiger left is the Sumatran. It is estimated that there are less than 400 Sumatran Tigers left in both their natural habitat and in captivity.

Typically, Sumatran tigers will live to be 15-20 years old in the wild and may reach 25 years old within captivity. There have been breeding programs within zoos to try and increase the populations, but while this approach is successful, it tends to be slow growing. Tigers breed very well in captivity, but as tigers are classified as a k-strategist species, they will typically have one to three cubs and spend multiple years raising these cubs until they reach maturity.

In the wild, many cubs will not make it to maturity as many factors threaten its survival.  Loss of habitat, a lack of water, poaching and males looking to mate with the female, are all dangers to Sumatran Tigers when breeding in the wild.  

In the last 22 years alone, Sumatra has lost over 50% of its forests in which much of the cleared land is being used to produce agricultural products, such as coffee and palm oil. Tigers, when found on the farm land, are captured and carried off, or killed on sight as a safety precaution. This has vastly reduced the population size of the Sumatrans. 

Mohan joined The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, WA in 2017, and was one of five Sumatran tigers in the Asian Forest Sanctuary.  In 2017, all the Sumatran tigers at PDZA were siblings, thus could not breed. Mohan was brought from the Sacramento Zoo to attempt artificial insemination with Kali, a four year old female. Though the two did not successfully have cubs, Mohan was still a highly valued part of the zoo.  

At 15 years old, Mohan was euthanized on Jan. 27, 2020 due to kidney disease, arthritis and high blood pressure. Having lived all his life in captivity, this is a very young age, and his loss will be felt throughout the Tacoma community, as well as the global Sumatran community.

With so few remaining Sumatran tigers, it is imperative that people start taking serious action so another majestic species of tiger isn’t lost forever.

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