The Javan Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica)In the early 1800’s tigers ranged over the whole island of Java in Indonesia, but they were considered a nuisance. By the end of the Second World War they had been hunted out in all but the most remote mountainous and forested areas.
In the 1960’s many conservationists feared that the Javan Tiger was extinct. Investigations of periodic 'tiger' sightings usually proved to be leopards. In 1971, however, an isolated population was confirmed in the Gunung Betiri, a magnificent, rugged mountain complex in the SE part of the island. When the Javan tiger was re-discovered, the area was declared a nature reserve by the Minister of Agriculture.
The few forest guards assigned to Gunung Betiri could not adequately protect the entire reserve. The reserve itself was fragmented by plantations in the river valleys and the coffee and rubber plantation owners continued to shoot tigers as pests. By 1980 it was estimated that the population of Javan tigers was down to fewer than 5 individuals, with only 3 animals confirmed in a rapid assessment survey carried out by John Seidensticker and Ir. Suyono who recommended a detailed management plan to save this subspecies, published in 1980.
This, however, was too little too late and the tiger is thought to have gone extinct some time in the 1980’s. A detailed search for the tiger by WWF of the Meru Betiri National Park failed to find any remaining signs of the Javan Tiger.
They officially pronounced it extinct in 1994.
The loss of a tiger subspecies in such recent history is an incredibly powerful call to action. We have learned from the Javan tiger lesson, that tigers need large contiguous protected core areas to survive. These core protected areas need to be large enough to provide food and a safe haven for female tigers to raise their cubs. Core protected areas need to be surrounded by human-tiger friendly habitats such as multiple-use forest areas that can act as buffer zones. The core areas also need to be connected to eachother by corridors of tiger-friendly habitat so that young adult tigers can disperse into unoccupied territories.
Historically, tigers have traditionally been regarded as a dangerous nuisance species in many tiger landscapes. This paradigm has completely changed as people have been made aware of how endangered the tiger is. Save The Tiger Fund works to mitigate human-tiger conflict outside protected areas. Where we have been successful, local attitudes towards tigers have changed from one of fear and disdain to that of respect and tolerance. With these changes in attitudes accompanied by reduced demand for illegal tiger products in international markets we can ensure that viable tiger populations will remain in human-tiger-friendly landscapes for future generations.