The Javan tiger was last spotted in 1972.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the tigers of the island of Java were considered pests. As a threat to both humans and their domesticated animals, the tigers were hunted or poisoned. The human population grew, the jungle diminished, and so it could go only go one way for the Javan tigers: Downhill.
Everything seemed to be working against the animal. As the increasing population of Java needed more agricultural land, deforestation decreased its habitat. Growing populations of wild dogs and leopards competed about the dwindling food supply.The previously so ubiquitous tiger retreated into the jungle.
In the 1940s, the authorities began to realise the problem and set up some reserves. However, they were too small for the roaming tigers, and there was too little prey. Also, the reserves could not defend them against poachers. In the 1950s there were only about 20-25 tigers on Java. In the 1970s, the number was below 15. No Javan tigers or any sign of them have been spotted since the 1980s, and the species is now believed to be extinct.
Of the 8 known species of modern tigers, three of them have become extinct: the Bali, the Caspian and the Javan. The remaining five species are also threatened - all in all, they make up a total of 5,000 individuals. The natives of Java believed that the tigers were reincarnations of their ancestors. However, this didn't stop them from hunting them to extinction. I suppose they considered the lives of their current relatives more important than the souls of their ancient ones.
The tiger was described by Coenrad Temminck
in 1844 and given the Latin name Panthera tigris sondaica
. The Javan resembled the Sumatran tiger
in being one of the smaller species, but distinguished itself with darker and closer-set stripes
. They also had the longest whiskers
among the tigers.
Not dead yet?
The Indonesian authorities and the WWF have both pronounced the Javan tiger extinct. However, large parts of Java are still covered in unknown forest, and so there is still a tiny hope that there may be some tigers left. Local enthusiasts in contact with the villagers living near the forests claim there are still tigers around. Still, no concrete evidence of live tigers has been found, and the conditions for any potential surviving animals have not improved. The story of the Javan tiger is unlikely to get a happy ending.
The Jakarta Post
And in reply to a pertinent question from Pseudo_Intellectual, the Javan tiger was last striped in... uh... do you want to know how the leopard got his spots?