Part 7 of our Tiger profile
Three Extinct Subspecies – yes, large mammals which have disappeared forever in the last 50 years.
Bali Tiger Panthera tigris balica, Javan Tiger Panthera tigris sondaica and the Caspian Tiger Panthera tigris virgata.
The Bali Tiger was the first Tiger to be lost in the last half-century, disappearing in the 1940′s. As one could imagine, tigers living on a small island, such as Bali, inhabitated by humans leads to direct conflict and for the most part tigers were considered pests and hunted to extinction. Before we go pointing fingers – North Americans did their best to rid ourselves of wilves, mountain lions and other predators in the late 1800′s and through the 1900′s. Humans clearly have a propensity not to want to share our land with an animal that can eat us – even if the Bali Tiger was reprotedly the smallest of all tigers, it was a tiger and could eat your livestock nonetheless.
The Caspian Tiger was the next to go in the 1970′s. Unlike the isolated isalnd species, the Caspian was found across Turkey and Iran (south and west of of the Caspian Sea) and west through Central Asia into the Takla Makan desert of Xinjiang, China. Hunting, habitat loss and conversion to agriculture were the leading factors in the loss of this tiger. Save the Tiger Fund notes tigers in Central Asia were not usually regarded as a threat to human life and were known to co-exist with human habitation, even close to major towns such as Tashkent. But the spread of settlement, especially Russian immigration into Central Asia from the late nineteenth century, was to lead to their demise. As the riverside vegetation was cleared for cultivation, and rivers tapped for irrigation water, notably for the great expansion in cotton growing from the 1930s, tigers lost their habitat and prey. In Russian Central Asia in the early decades of the twentieth century military detachments were used to exterminate the tigers, as well as leopards and wolves, ahead of human settlement. Herdsmen regarded tigers as a threat to their livestock, including camels, horses and sheep. As their fine pelts were valuable they were killed by strychnine poison and steel traps, and large bounties were paid for their destruction.
The Javan Tiger was the latest to go, in the late 70′s-1980′s. A tiger went extinct in the 1980′s – ~25 years ago, large mammal extinction should not occur in this day and age, yet they do, and will continue to do so. Another island species which was both hunted and lst it’s prey base due to loss of habitat. Hopefully we have learned our lessons with island species and can protect the remaining Sumatran Tigers left on that island before there populations drops below one which is genetically viable.