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
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.