In the early 19th century Javan tigers (Panthera tigris sondaica) were so common over Java that in some areas the were considered nothing more than pests.
They were driven to the verge of extinction through a rapid increase in human population leading inevitably to a severe reduction in habitat. Forests were felled then converted for agricultural use. Along with this tigers were merciless hunted and poisoned, and they experienced growing competition for prey species with wild dogs and leopards.
Much of the hunting was carried out by natives, a surprising thing since they considered the tiger a reincarnation of their dead relatives.
Javan tiger reserves:
By 1940 the Javan tiger had been pushed into remote mountain ranges and forests. At this stage some small reserves were set up, but these were not large enough and prey species were too low.
Come the mid-1950s only 20-25 tigers remained on Java. Half of these were in the well-known Ujong Kulon Wildlife Reserve, but the 1960s saw all tigers eliminated from this area and also from Baluran National Park.
1972 and the Javan tiger count was down to a maximum of seven in the then newly-formed Meru Betiri Forest Reserve, and perhaps five elsewhere.
Meru Betiri was rugged and considered this tiger's last chance for survival. However, even as it was declared a reserve, the area was under attack by agricultural development. A 1979 census located the tracks of only three tigers. Substantiated evidence that this tiger is still alive has not been forthcoming since then.
The exact time of extinction remains unknown, but this was probably sometime in the 1980s.
Continued sightings of the Javan tiger:
Occasional reports still surface of a few tigers to be found in east Java where the forested areas account for almost thirty per cent of the land surface. Meru Betiri National Park, the least accessible area of the island, is located here and considered the most likely area for any remaining Javan tigers. This park is now coming under threat from three gold mining companies after the discovery of 80,000 tons of gold deposit within the locality.
Despite the continuing claims of sightings it is far more likely that, even with full protection and in reserve areas, the Javan tiger was unable to be saved. The 'tigers' are quite likely to be leopards seen from a distance.
At the present time the World Conservation Monitoring Centre lists this subspecies as having an 'outstanding query over status' rather than extinct, and some agencies are carrying out experiments using infrared activated remote cameras in an effort to photograph any tigers. Authorities are even prepared to initiate the move of several thousand natives should tiger protection require this.
But until concrete evidence can be produced (expert sightings, pug marks, photographic evidence, attacks on people and animals), the Javan tiger must be considered yet another subspecies which is probably lost to mankind.
the javan tiger