In Indonesia's Jungles, a Hunt for an Extinct Beast

Genetic tests on a single hair suggest Javan tiger may still roam Java
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2024 1:07 PM CDT
In Indonesia's Jungles, a Hunt for an Extinct Beast
This blurry photo of a live Javan tiger dates to 1938.   (Wikimedia Commons/Andries Hoogerwerf)

In Indonesia, the hunt is on for a tiger thought to have gone extinct some four decades ago. The Javan tiger, native to the island of Java, was last officially spotted in the 1980s and declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2008. But there have been rumors of the tiger continuing to roam the island. In 2019, for example, a resident of a village in West Java claimed to have seen a Javan tiger in person and collected a single hair from a fence the animal had leaped over, Reuters reports. That hair has since undergone genetic testing. The results, published last week by Cambridge University Press, show the hair and one collected from a Javan tiger in 1930 are from closely related species of "the same group." Indeed, the genetic distance is given as 0.3%.

"Whether the Javan tiger still occurs in the wild needs to be confirmed with further genetic and field studies," according to the study. "There are several actions that we are doing and will do to respond to the results," Satyawan Pudyatmoko, who oversees the Environment and Forestry Ministry, tells AFP. He says officials are setting camera traps and inviting genetics experts to conduct further research. If proven to live on, the Javan tiger "will certainly become a protected animal," says Pudyatmoko. "It is the obligation of all parties, including the society, to participate in preserving their population." However, some have criticized the publication of the apparent link to the Javan tiger, whose population dwindled due to poaching, for fear hunters will go in search of the big cat, too. (More Indonesia stories.)

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