Deforestation in Tesso Nilo, Indonesia Threatens Sumatran Tiger

EarthzineOriginal, SGS 2017, St. George's School

The tropical forest Tesso Nilo, located in the province of Riau in Sumatra, Indonesia, is one of the most biodiverse in the planet. However, during the last 20 years the Tesso Nilo has been affected by the constant deforestation carried out in this area, which has threatened numerous species that live in the forest, especially the Sumatran tiger.

At St. George’s School (Bogotá, Colombia), 77 senior science students examined biodiversity issues using Earth observation images and information. Working groups created posters and texts in both English and Spanish. This is one of the submissions selected for publication.

Members: María Andrea Pedraza, Gabriela Arévalo, Luisa Valeria López, Nathalia Pachón, Juan Nicolás Castañeda, Sebastián Cárdenas.


The tropical forest of Tesso Nilo is one of the most biodiverse on the planet — the only one where tigers, rhinoceroses, orangutans and elephants live in the same area. The forest is affected by illegal deforestation that has been taking place in this area. Local people have cut down trees and started forest fires to clear space for industrial plantations. However, this has threatened several animal species living in this ecosystem, including the Sumatran tiger.

This tiger only inhabits Sumatra and has a high level of importance in the biodiversity of this island because it plays a fundamental role in the interaction and interdependence between multiple species that live in this habitat. It is at the top of the forest’s food chain. However, its population has been affected by the deforestation of the Riau province’s forests, since tigers require vegetation, large and abundant prey, and large extensions of land to hunt.

After tracing the population of Sumatran tigers in Riau province and Tesso Nilo, it was found that there is a direct relationship between the decline of individuals of this species and the deforestation of the study area.
First, the extent of the forest that has been vulnerable to deforestation, forest fires and oil palm crops in the last two decades was delimited through satellite imagery. Then, the population change of Sumatran Tigers in the last 20 years was determined from graphs and data tables. According to the results, it was found that more than half of the Tesso Nilo forest has been lost in the last 25 years. Also, regarding the tiger population, it was found that there has been a population loss of more than 70 percent since 1982, leaving less than 400 individuals.

In conclusion, it can be observed that in the future the conservation of the Tesso Nilo could not only protect the Sumatran tiger, but also guarantee the survival of the biodiversity found within this tropical forest.