Tigers are one of the most awe-inspiring and courageous wild animals living today. Unfortunately, the human population has grown and encroached on tiger habitats, causing their territory to decrease. Pressure from habitat loss, illegal killing, and shrinking food supply have pushed all species of tigers onto the endangered list.
There are nine subspecies or types of tigers, three of which are now extinct. The remaining six subspecies include the Bengal, Indo-Chinese, South China, Amur, and Sumatran tigers.
In this article, we will explore the three extinct subspecies of tigers, which are the Caspian tiger, Bali tiger, and Javan tiger. Habitat loss and illegal poaching led to the extinction of these three tiger subspecies and continue to plague all tiger species that remain.
3 Extinct Types Of Tigers
Caspian Tiger (Panthera tigris virgata)
The Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) was a now-extinct subspecies of tiger that inhabited a vast region from eastern Turkey, northern Iran, and Mesopotamia to the Caucasus around the Caspian Sea, Central Asia, and northern Afghanistan, with some reports of its presence in southern Russia until the Middle Ages.
It was also known as the Persian tiger. The Caspian tiger was one of the largest tigers to have ever lived, with males measuring approximately 270-295 cm (106–116 inches) in body length and weighing 170-240 kg (370–530 lbs.), while females measured 240-260 cm (94–102 inches) in body length and weighed 85-135 kg (187–298 lbs.).
Habitat and Appearance:
– The Caspian tiger adapted and evolved to live near rivers and lakes on the edges of dry desert environments in Central Asia.
– It had a coat that was a more gold, yellowish color with brown stripes, sometimes dark and sometimes light.
– The Caspian tiger had narrow stripes that were close together and yellow stripes on its white belly fur.
– It inhabited mostly seasonally flooded riverine land consisting of trees, shrubs, and dense stands of tall reeds and grass, reaching up to six meters in height.
– The Caspian tiger was already vulnerable due to its restricted range, which lay close to water in areas that were mostly desert.
– Its dependence on access to water meant that it needed to live near river basins, lake edges, and seashores, which were also preferred settlement areas for humans.
– As humans moved into their territory, they also depleted the tiger’s food stocks by hunting its prey species, further pushing the Caspian tiger towards extinction.
– The last known Caspian tiger in the Caucasus region was killed in 1922 near Tbilisi, Georgia, after taking domestic livestock.
– The last known Caspian tiger in Turkey was killed near Uludere Hakkari province in 1970.
– The only tiger reported from Iraq was killed near Mosul in 1887, and the last known tiger in Iran was killed in 1959 in Mohammad Reza Shah (now Golestan) II.
– One tiger was killed near the Lob Nor basin in Xinjiang, China, in 1899, and tigers had disappeared from the Tarim river basin in the Tian Shan mountains, west of Urumqi, in the 1960s.
– The last record of the tiger on the Ili river, their last stronghold in the region of Lake Balkhash, dates back to 1948.
– In the mid-19th century, tigers were killed 180 km northeast of Atbasar, Kazakhstan, and near Barnaul, Russia.
– The Caspian tiger was officially classified as extinct in 2003, with the last reported sighting in 1958.
Bali Tiger (Panthera tigris balica)
The Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica) was a subspecies of tiger that was native to the Indonesian island of Bali. It was the smallest of all the tiger subspecies, about the size of a mountain lion or leopard.
The Bali tiger had short fur that was a dark yellowish-orange color with relatively fewer black stripes compared to other tigers. Some even had black spots amongst the stripes.
The Bali tiger was the apex predator of Bali’s forests, playing a key role in maintaining the balance of other species on the island. Its diet consisted of the Javan Rusa deer, Red Junglefowl, Wild boar, Indian Muntjac, Monkeys, Banteng (a type of now-extinct wild cow), and Monitor Lizards.
Habitat and Extinction:
– The Bali tiger adapted and evolved to live on the island of Bali in Indonesia.
– The Bali tiger was the first tiger subspecies to go extinct in modern history.
– The Bali tiger’s extinction was caused by habitat loss and hunting by humans.
– When Dutch settlers arrived to colonize the island of Bali in the 16th century, they deforested the tiger’s natural habitat to make way for palm plantations and irrigated rice fields, while deliberately baiting and killing the small population of tigers.
– This pushed the Bali tigers to their final refuge in the mountainous northwestern areas of the island by the turn of the 20th century.
– The last known Bali tiger was shot in 1937, and the subspecies was officially declared extinct in 2003.
Javan Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica)
The Javan Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) was a subspecies of tiger native to the Indonesian island of Java until the mid-1970s. It was one of the three tiger populations in the Sunda Islands, along with the Bali tiger and the Sumatran tiger.
The Javan tiger was smaller than other modern tiger subspecies, with males having a mean body length of 248 cm (98 in) and weighing between 100 and 141 kg (220 and 311 lb), while females were smaller, weighing between 75 and 115 kg (165 and 254 lb).
It had long, thin stripes, a narrow face with a relatively long and narrow nose, and heavy black stripes on its orange coat with white belly fur.
The Javan tiger was hunted to extinction, and its natural habitat was converted for agricultural land use and infrastructure. The overpopulation of humans on the island of Java was a significant factor in its extinction, as the growing population needed to clear the lowland tropical native forest to farm more rice.
By 1975, only 8% of Java’s original forest cover remained, and the human population had increased to 85 million people.
In 2003, the Javan tiger was officially listed as extinct by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. However, there have been some unconfirmed sightings of the Javan tiger in recent years, raising hopes that the subspecies may still exist in some remote areas of the island.
1. Which three subspecies of tigers are now extinct?
The three extinct subspecies of tigers are the Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata), the Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica), and the Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica).
2. What led to the extinction of these tiger subspecies?
Habitat loss and illegal poaching were the main factors that led to the extinction of these three tiger subspecies. The human population growth, encroachment on tiger habitats, and shrinking food supply also contributed to their decline.
3. When was the last sighting of these extinct tiger subspecies?
The last known Caspian tiger was reportedly shot in Golestan National Park in Iran in 1959. The Bali tiger was last seen in the 1930s, and the Javan tiger was last sighted in the 1970s.
4. How were these extinct tiger subspecies different from the remaining six subspecies?
The Caspian tiger, also known as the Hyrcanian or Turan tiger, lived in sparse forests south and west of the Caspian Sea. It was smaller than the Siberian tiger but larger than the Bali tiger, with narrower and closer-together stripes. The Bali tiger was found on the Indonesian island of Bali and was smaller than both the Caspian and Javan tigers. The Javan tiger, similar in appearance to the Sumatran tiger, had long and thin stripes, a long and narrow nose, and the longest whiskers of any tiger subspecies.
5. Are there any efforts to protect the remaining tiger subspecies?
Yes, there are various conservation projects and organizations working to protect the remaining tiger subspecies. These efforts include habitat preservation, anti-poaching measures, and community engagement to promote alternative livelihoods and reduce human-tiger conflicts.