Panthera tigris sondaica


Kingdom Animalia


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". This file is in the public domain in Indonesia because its copyright has expired, according to Article 30 of Indonesia Copyright Law No 19, 2002.

Phylum Chordata 
Class Mammalia 
Order Carnivora
Family Felidae
Genus Panthera
Species Panthera tigris
Subspecies Panthera tigris sondaica
English Name Javan Tiger
Authority (Temminck, 1844)
English Name Javan Tiger
Dutch Name Javaanse Tijger
French Name Tigre de Java
German Name Javatiger
Italian Name Tigre di Giava
Spanish Name Tigre de Java
Swedish Name Javatigern

The taxonomic affinity of Southeast Asian tigers has been re-investigated by J.H. Mazák and C.P. Groves. Specimens of four traditionally recognized tiger (Panthera tigris) subspecies were examined using various craniological methods, including multivariate craniometric and phenetic analysis. They conclude that Sumatran tigers differ absolutely (100%) from the geographically neighbouring mainland form Panthera tigris corbetti; and that the Javanese tiger is also 100% distinguishable from the Sumatran. According to these scientists they are therefore regarded as two distinct species (Panthera sumatrae, Panthera sondaica) under the Phylogenetic Species Concept (PSC). The Bali tiger is than classified as a subspecies of the Javanese tiger, Panthera sondaica balica. (Mazák and Groves 2006) However for now, The Extinction Website still regards the Javan tiger as Panthera tigris sondaica. This may change when there is consensus among scientists about its true taxonomy.

Characteristics The Javan tiger was quite similar in appearance to the still existing Sumatran tiger, but had numerous darker and closer-set black stripes. Striping on the flanks and back was often double-looped. This dense pattern of stripes was characteristic for this subspecies. This subspecies was also notable for their cheek whiskers that were the longest of any of the subspecies. (Van den Hoek Ostende. 1999)
Range & Habitat The Javan tiger occurred on the Indonesian island of Java (Jackson & Nowell 2008).

Image: the former range of the Javan Tiger (in red). Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 Licence.


History & Population

The oldest tiger fossils from Java date from 1.2 million years ago. This prehistoric tiger, Panthera tigris trinilensis, was found at the locality of Trinil, which also yielded the oldest human remains of the island, the famous Java-man. These tiger fossils are now stored in the Dubois Collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden, the Netherlands. Although these fossils have been found on Java, they probably do not belong to a direct ancestor of the Javan tiger. During the Ice Ages the larger Indonesian islands were regularly connected to the mainland, which allowed faunal exchanges. The last time such immigration occurred was during the late Pleistocene, some 50.000 years ago. Tigers, which probably migrated from China, reached Java again. As the sea level rose, the tiger population became isolated and finally developed into the Javan subspecies. (Van den Hoek Ostende 1999; Seidensticker 1987; Hemmer 1971)

In the early 19th century Javan tigers were so common all over Java, that in some areas they were considered nothing more than pests. As the human population rapid increased, large parts of the island were cultivated, leading inevitably to a severe reduction of their natural habitat. Wherever man moved in, the Javan tigers were ruthlessly hunted down or poisoned. The Javan tiger experienced growing competition for prey species with wild dogs and leopards. Natives carried much of the hunting out, a surprising thing since they considered the tiger a reincarnation of their dead relatives. By 1940, tigers had become restricted to remote mountain ranges and forests. In the mid-1950s only 20-25 Javan tigers remained on Java. During the 1960s the Javan tiger even disappeared from the famous Ujung Kulon reserve on the western tip of Java, where nowadays the last Javan rhinoceroses live. The last stronghold of the Javan tiger was a rugged area in southeastern Java, known as Meru-Betiri, which had become a game reserve in 1972. It was considered this tiger's last chance for survival. However, even it was declared a reserve, the area was under attack by agricultural development. A track count revealed that in 1979 at most three Javan tigers where still living there. The Javan tiger has not been seen or tracked since. The exact time of extinction remains unknown, but this subspecies must have become extinct in the early 1980s. (Van den Hoek Ostende. 1999)

Occasional reports still surface of few tigers to be found in East Java. Meri-Betiri National Park, the least accessible area of the island, is located here and considered the most likely area for any remaining Javan tigers. Despite the continuing claims of sightings it is far more likely that the Javan tiger has become extinct. The 'tigers' are quite likely to be leopards seen from a distance.

Some agencies are carrying out experiments using infrared activated remote cameras in an effort to photograph any tigers. Authorities are even prepared to initiate the move of several thousand natives should tiger protection require this. But until concrete evidence can be produced, the Javan tiger must be considered yet another subspecies of the tiger to be extinct and lost forever.
Extinction Causes The Javan tigers were driven to extinction though a rapid increase in human population leading inevitably to a severe reduction in habitat for the tigers, which e.g. resulted in growing competition for prey species with wild dogs and leopards. Forests were felled and than converted for agricultural use. The Javan tigers were also merciless hunted and poisoned.
Conservation Attempts The establishment of nature reserves in the 1940s and later could not save the Javan tiger, because tigers need a large area with a rich food supply. The reserves were too small and too far apart, and therefore could not maintain tiger populations. Besides, the amount of prey species was too low. Captive breeding was maybe an option, because there have been captive Javan tigers in Europe. They could be found in Rotterdam Zoo (the Netherlands), Berlin Zoo (Germany), and maybe in Budapest Zoo (Hungary). However, it is likely that the Javan tigers in Budapest were in fact Sumatran tigers. The Javan tiger was common in Indonesian zoo collections before World War II, but during the war these zoos were disbanded. Following the war, when zoo collections were re-established, Javan tigers were very rare in the wild and it was much easier to obtain Sumatran tigers, so the zoos hadn’t any Javan tigers anymore. But sadly enough no conservation attempts have been made in captivity.
Museum Specimens The National Museum of Natural History “Naturalis” in Leiden, the Netherlands, has two mounted skins of Javan tigers, one skeleton and ten skulls. The first skin (young female) was obtained in 1820 or 1821 in western Java by three of the first Dutch zoologists to explore the Netherlands East Indies (nowadays Indonesia), namely Heinrich Kuhl, Johan Christiaan van Hasselt and Gerrit van Raalten. Heinrich Kuhl and Jahan Christiaan van Hasslt collected the skeleton too. The first director of this museum, Coenraad Jacob Temminck, used these specimens when he described Felis tigris sondaica in 1844. The second skin is from an adult male Javan tiger that was imported into the Netherlands from Java on 10 June 1920 and died in Rotterdam Zoo in February 1931. (Van den Hoek Ostende. 1999) Also Wiesbaden Museum in Germany has a mounted skin of the Javan Tiger in its collection. It was collected on Java in 1825.
Relatives The Bali tiger was the first subspecies of the tiger to become extinct. Unfortunately, since then, further two subspecies, namely the Caspian Tiger and the Javan Tiger, have become extinct. The six remaining tiger subspecies are the Bengal tiger Panthera tigris tigris (Linnaeus, 1758), Siberian (Amur) tiger Panthera tigris altaica (Temminck, 1844), Sumatran tiger Panthera tigris sumatrae Pocock, 1829, Indo-Chinese tiger Panthera tigris corbetti Mazak, 1968, South China tiger Panthera tigris amoyensis (Hilzheimer, 1905), and the Malayan tiger Panthera tigris jacksoni (Lou et al., 2004). The six remaining subspecies are all critically endangered en may follow the extinct ones soon, if nothing more will be done to protect them! (Lou, et al, 2004)

Javan Tiger - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tiger Territory - The Javan Tiger

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Panthera tigris ssp. sondaica

References Hemmer, H. 1971. Fossil mammals of Java. II: Zur fossilgeschichte des tigers (Panthera tigris (L.)) in Java. Koninkl. Nederl. Adad. Wetensch., Proc., Ser. B, 4:35-52.

Jackson, P. & Nowell, K. 2008. Panthera tigris ssp. sondaica. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <>. Downloaded on 08 March 2009.

Luo S, Kim J, Johnson WE, Walt Jvd, Martenson J, et al. (2004) Phylogeography and Genetic Ancestry of Tigers (Panthera tigris). PLoS Biol 2(12): e442.

Mazák J.H., C.P. Groves. 2006. A taxonomic revision of the tigers (Panthera tigris) of Southeast Asia. Mammalian biology 71, 5:268–287. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde.

Seidensticker, J. 1987. Bearing witness: observations on the extinction of Panthera tigris balica and P. t. sondaica. Pp. 1-8 in R. Tilson and U.S. Seal (eds.) Tigers of the World: The Biology, Biopolitics, Management, and Conservation of an Endangered Species. Noyes Publications, Park Ridge, NJ.

Van den Hoek Ostende. 1999. Javan Tiger - Ruthlessly hunted down. 300 Pearls - Museum highlights of natural diversity. Downloaded on 21 September 2005. 

Last updated: 15th December 2007.

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