Javan tiger declared extinct – but is it?

javan tiger

The Javan tiger. Is it or isn't it extinct?

Indonesia was blessed with 3 sub species of tigers – the Javan , Bali and Sumatran  – sadly only the Sumatran tiger is now officially deemed to be in existence. The Bali tiger was declared extinct in 1950. The Javan tiger was thought to have gone extinct in the mid 1970’s and officially declared extinct in 1998. But has it really gone extinct?

While there has been little hard evidence that the Javan tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. sondaica) there are lots of local reports of tigers on the island of Java especially in the Muria mountain range. 

Tiger droppings discovered on Java in August 2011.

The most recent of these was reported in the Jakarta Post and took place late last year. In August 2011 local environmental activists from the Muria Research Center were out hiking in the forests of the mountains and came across tiger droppings. 

We found the faeces of a Javanese tiger while hiking in the Muria range from July to August 2011, when we were heading to the Termulus Peak to be precise,” activist Imam Khanafi said.

Three possible locations for Javan tiger on the island.

In an article just published in the Jakarta Post a local academic who has been researching the Javan tiger for 14 years believes that the tiger could be living in a number of places across Java apart from the Muria mountain range. He highlighted Meru Betiri and Gunung Raung National Parks in East Java as other likely places for the last remnants of the Javan tiger.

There has been sporadic pieces of evidence that the Javan tiger still exists since it was declared extinct. A dead Javan tiger was found in 2000 after being poisoned and a piece of suspected Javan tiger skin is said to have come from a Javan tiger killed in 2008.

Javan tigers used to live in the lowland forests of Java in Indonesia. They were the second smallest of the tiger species only larger than the Bali tiger. Apart from size difference the Javan tiger is differentiated from the larger Sumatran tiger by the stripe patterns. Javan tigers have many more narrower stripes than their Sumatran cousin.

Strangely while the body of the Javan tiger is smaller than their Asian mainland relatives the diameter of their feet size tended to be larger that even the Bengal tiger.

This fits in with some of the descriptions that are being given by local people on Java. They describe a tiger with a smaller body and large feet.

Camera trapping to gather hard evidence of Javan tiger.

Following the discovery of tiger droppings in August 2011 the national park authorities began a new camera trap survey to try and capture conclusive proof that the Javan tiger still roam the park. However the odds were stacked against them getting the evidence.

The park rangers had just 5 camera traps available for the project and the deployment of the cameras took place in December during the wet season. This meant that freshwater was plentiful in the national park. Camera trapping is much more effective during the dry season (May – September) when they can be placed at known watering holes.

Even finding tiger droppings can now provide essential evidence of the survival of the Javan tiger. Modern DNA techniques will be able to confirm that the tiger is still living and not an escaped Sumatran tiger.

What a boost it would be to tiger conservation – and Indonesian tourism – if the Javan tiger was found to be, if not thriving, at least still in existence on the island.

External sites:

The Jakarta Post: Javanese tiger believed to be still in existence.

Posted in Animal and tagged , , .
Subscribe to our newsletter for a weekly digest of wildlife news from around the world


  1. I remember, when i was small in my village in Jogjakarta, my olders used to tell that tigers are “personified as kyai” and we never heard of local tiger attack villagers, I myself and I assume myself my elders had never met tigers at that time, but that animal seemed to be legendary not because they attacked people like in other places, but some of the legend would.tell that they have magic too. Javanese,i think they have superstitions and magic with tiger, I had a friend who told a story how a tiger put a deer un front of a villager house one morning after a day before that farmer helped a baby cub by putting it into its cave when it’s mother was away looking for a food. I don’t know it’s sincerity but,
    If I knew where the last Javan tigers were, I’d be very careful who I told… God bless

  2. Hope the tigers can be left alone, but protected also. Big risk of encouraging poachers to arrive if information is not properly managed. How can the Javan Tiger be declared extinct so soon after conclusive sightings and other evidence to the contrary? Money and big business want access to all land in south east Asia. I hope the Indonesian Tiger supporters keep doing their excellent work.

  3. Very informative article. I’ve been researching the Javan Tiger and it’s a very obsessive and interesting topic! I wondered if there was any news regarding the cameras that had been recently set up?

    • Hi

      I have not heard anything yet about the results of the amera trap survey. Generally if there is follow up news to an article on wildlife news I will announe it on our facebook page.
      I am hoping to get some follow up information but I’m not sure when it will be released.


  4. Don’t u think it’s risky to tell people where the tigers might be because poachers have internet to

    • Hi

      I don’t think I’ve published anything here that is not already in the public domain so it’s unlikely that there’s any greater risk to the possible tigers – if they do still survive.

      What’s important is that local people realise that living tigers can be much more valuable that dead ones. When that happens the local community becomes a powerful force in protecting the tiger by being extra eyes and ears for the law enforcement agencies.



Comments are closed.