Similar to the Sumatran and Bali subspecies of tiger, the Javan tiger (technical name Panthera tigris sondaica) was uniquely isolated in both geographic and political terms to a single water-locked island. Even before research escalated regarding the viability of the Sumatran tiger, significant and original research had been conducted regarding the status and viability of the Javan tiger. In particular, John Seidensticker and his Indonesian colleague Ir. Suyono conducted the first comprehensive field research on the island of Java in the mid-1970s.

Unfortunately, the picture revealed by this early research was bleak; few tigers could be found on the island, and trends in the decline indicated the likely extinction of the subspecies within a decade-due completely to the corruption of their habitat by the infiltration of human beings. (Java, with an area of 132,000 kilometers and a population in excess of 130 million people, is the most densely populated island on Earth). Unfortunately, here the worst case scenario developed for tigers. Along with the Caspian and Bali tigers, the Javan tiger is now extinct - none exist in either the wild or in captivity. All that remains are photographs and pelts. The last observation of a Javan tiger that was formally documented occurred in 1972. (Two important related points must be observed here: First, there have been recent anecdotal reports of Javan tiger sightings associated with the wildfires that raged across Java in 1997 and 1998; these incidents, however, were later determined to have involved leopards. Second, the term "extinction" is formally recognized among scientists to mean the absence of any official sightings of an animal for no fewer than 50 years. Hence, while the Javan tiger is universally presumed to be extinct, it cannot yet be technically categorized as such.)

In genetic terms, the Javan tiger could have supplied an opportunity for research as valuable as that of the Bali and Sumatran subspecies, had any of its progeny survived. The classifications used to categorize tigers by subspecies were implemented long before the details of genotyping were refined to the degree they have been today. Furthermore, the burgeoning field of genetic analysis had not achieved the techniques necessary to take full advantage of the animal's uniqueness before its demise. The relational proximity between the Sumatran, Javan and Bali tigers might have provided unique insights into the effectiveness of our subspecies identification techniques; techniques essential in the application of conservation strategies.

During 1998 and 1999, The Tiger Foundation received reports from Indonesian park rangers of numerous tiger sightings in and around some national parks in Eastern Java. Some of the evidence included photographs of tree scratch marks, pug marks (paw prints) and scats (droppings). The scats were sent to a laboratory in the USA and a team was dispatched to investigate the reports. The Tiger Foundation provided support to the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, which set several of our camera traps in the forest. Many photographs of animals were taken; no evidence of tigers was found. The scats turned out to be bear droppings. We have concluded that the reported cats are in fact leopards, which are still common in Java.

The Javan Tiger is undoubtedly extinct.

Sumatran, Indo-chinese, Southchinese, Bengal, Siberian, Caspian, Javan, Balinese