Javan Tiger is an extinct tiger subspecies that used to inhabit the Java Islands in Indonesia. Hunting and deforestation are two of the primary reasons believed to have completely wiped it out by mid-70s or early 80s.
Fossil evidences suggest that around 12000 years ago, Javan Tigers also existed in Borneo Island and Palawan in Philippines. Still, some experts say that the Borneo specimens survived as recently as 200 years ago.
|Scientific name||Panthera tigris sondaica|
|Distribution||Island of Java|
|Historical Epoch||Modern (went extinct around 30 – 40 year ago)|
|Size||248 cm (mean body length)|
|Weight||Male – 100–140 kgs; Female 75-100 kgs|
|Lifespan||12 – 14 years|
Compared to other Panthera tigris sub-species, which still populates the Asian mainland, Javan tigers were slight smaller. However, male Javan Tigers could grow bigger than the Sumatran Tigers.
Javan tigers had thin and long stripes. Their occipital plane was narrow, carnassials comparatively long and they also had long and narrow nose.
Depending on all these anatomical differences, there were suggestions of specifying it as a distinct species – Panthera sondaica.
The Javan tiger used to prey on wild boar, rusa deer and banteng. At times, they also fed upon water fowls and reptiles.
By 1940s, Javan Tigers were pushed into remote forest ranges. Until the Second World War, the Javan tigers were kept in zoos in Indonesia, but they were all shut down during the war. After the Second World War, the natural forests were fragmented for the plantation of coffee, rubber and teak, threatening Javan Tiger’s natural habitat.
Their numbers alarmingly decreased when one of its natural preys’ – the Rusa deer’s number went down in many regions triggering food scarcity. By mid-50s, just 20 – 25 tigers remained in the island. In 1965, during civil unrest, armed groups backed away and took shelter in forests and reserves reducing the natural tiger habitat. In the midst of a human-dominated landscape, the deracination of Javan tigers got intensified in the 1970s.
Till the mid-60s, Javan tigers survived in protected areas – such as Ujung Kulon, Leuwen Sancang and Baluran which were set up in 1920s and 1930s. However, no confirmed tiger sightings were reported in those areas following the civil unrest in 1965.
In the 1970s, the last remaining specimens lived in the Mount Betiri region (1192 m altitude), the highest mountain in southeast Java. The recorded number came down to seven in 1972. In 1976, tracks were found in the Mount Betiri Reserve suggesting the presence of this now extinct tiger subspecies. However, post-1979, there were no more confirmed sightings in the region.
In 1980, it was recommended to extend the reserve and eliminate disruptive influence of humans. Later, these recommendations were implemented by the Indonesian Nature Conservation Authority by declaring the reserve as a national park. However, the measures came into effect a bit too late.
When was it declared extinct
From 1993 to March 1994, believing that this subspecies is still alive, a survey was conducted in the Meru Betiri National Park, with the help of WWF Indonesia. However, it failed to discover any concrete evidence that could argue for the Javan tiger’s existence. As the final report of the survey came out, the Javan tiger was pronounced extinct.
Mr. Indra Arinal, Meru Betiri National Park’s then Chief Warden, initiated another search effort in 1999 that also failed to gather any proper evidence.
- In 1995, a group of villagers claimed to have seen an adult Javan tiger with cubs in East Java.
- In 2009, villagers near the Lawu Mountain claimed to have seen a tigress with cubs. Authorities found several fresh tracks, but the big cat remained elusive.
- Following the eruption of Mount Merapi in October 2010, two villagers claimed to have seen big cat paw marks in the residual ash, but the park officials dismissed that idea.
- Javan tigers’ small body size was imputed to Bergmann’s rule as well as the size of the available prey that are relatively smaller when compared to the ones found in mainland Asia.
- Javan tigers’ tracks’ diameter used to be bigger than that of the Bengal Tiger found in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
- Javan tigers were so abundant in the early 19th century that in some regions, they were considered as pests.