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Indonesia abuzz over possible finding of extinct tiger

  • Park rangers in Java photographed a big cat that resembled the Javan tiger which was officially declared extinct in 2003.
  • The finding prompted authorities and NGO in Indonesia to deploy an investigation team to gather more evidence.
  • Meanwhile, some experts argued that the animal was most likely the Javan leopard.

JAKARTA — Based on photographic evidence, park officials in Indonesia reported the possible sighting of the Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) some 14 years after the animal was officially declared extinct.

In the middle of doing a field survey on Aug. 25, a ranger from Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java photographed a big cat that officials failed to immediately identify. It subsequently sparked a speculation that the beast could be the Javan tiger which was last sighted in the island in 1976.

An unidentified big cat was photographed last month by a ranger from Ujung Kulon National Park. Officials claim the animal could be the Extinct Javan tiger. Photo courtesy of Ujung Kulon National Park.

“This used to be the habitat of Javan tiger,” Mamat Rahmat, chief of the park, told local news media last Wednesday. “We hope that they still exist.”

The report, which went viral across the internet, has prompted Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry and NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to deploy a team to investigate and set up more camera traps to gather more information and samples.

“The stripes [on the cat] appear to be similar like that of Javan tiger, but its posture is questionable,” Wiratno, the director general of natural resources conservation, told local news media. “This is among the things that we want to confirm.”

Meanwhile, the report has received skepticism from some experts who suggested that the creature resembled more the Critically Endangered Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas).

“The information is based on a photo that was taken from quite a far distance, and from far away, a leopard can appear to have stripes,” Gono Semiadi, a mammal expert with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) told local news media on Sept. 14.

This photograph of a live Javan tiger was taken in 1938 at Ujung Kulon and published in A. Hoogerwerf’s “Ujung Kulon: The Land of the last Javan Rhinoceros.” Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Rumoured sightings of the Javan tiger have been reported mostly by locals over the years, but research expeditions since 1990s have failed to prove the continued existence of the reclusive animal.

Poaching and habitat loss in Java, the country’s most populated island with 140 million people, have led to mass extinction of animals, including the Javan tiger which is one of the three subspecies of Indonesian tigers.

In 2003, the Javan tiger and the Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica) were declared extinct by the IUCN. Meanwhile, the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is listed as Critically Endangered due to hunting and rapid deforestation in Sumatra island.

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