Bali Tiger -- Panthera tigris balica

Bali - Page 1: In The Wild | 2: Subspecies Description | 3: Weight & Length Figures

Historic distribution of the Balinese tiger:

The Balinese tiger (Panthera tigris balica), which once roamed the island of Bali, has been considered extinct since the 1940s.

Of the eight subspecies of tiger this one started out with the smallest available territory area. In itself that presented a severe threat to the Balinese subspecies.

Rapid increases in the human population and a rising demand for agricultural land lead to deforestation and loss of the already small tiger habitat. Eventually the few remaining cats were pushed to the north-western tip of the island.

As early as the mid-1930s most Balinese tigers were museum or trophy specimens. Prior to this they probably survived only in the sparse mountain areas. Even here they were unsafe from European hunters who descended on the island of Bali on organised hunting trips out of Java. Both trophy hunters and locals carried new and more-efficient firearms.

Between the two World Wars the Balinese tiger was hunted indiscriminately and by the end of World War II the subspecies is thought to have disappeared altogether.

The killing of the very last wild Balinese tiger is usually thought to have been at Sumbar Kima, West Bali on 27th September, 1937; this was an adult tigress.

Shaded Area: Respective Historical Ranges for the
Bali and Javan tigers.

Later sightings:

The Second World War means we are without any useful data on this subspecies for the 1940s and 1950s. An exact date of extinction is unknown as throughout the 1940s reports persisted that tigers still lived on the island.

These came from people considered to be reliable and they continued into the 1950s, though with a reducing frequency. One instance occurred in 1952 when a Dutch forestry officer reported seeing a Balinese tiger.

Despite these positive reports it is almost certain that the Balinese tiger is extinct and little chance it will ever be rediscovered.

Even in quite recent times sightings have continued to surface. There was a suspected sighting in a western reserve in 1970, while Balinese Forestry workers reported another in 1972. There has been nothing else to date.

Over the next eight years various searches were carried out; these covered those reserve areas where tigers had been reported. No live cats were located, though one search did find dead animals which had obviously been attacked by some form of carnivore, while another found claw marks at a height consistent with a tiger.

The remaining forest areas are no longer large enough to provide a tiger with the required shelter and food source.

Even at its peak this tiger was never very numerous. Tigers require large territories and the island of Bali is so small it could never have supported a large population.

Though it was recognised as a separate subspecies in 1912, the classification of the Balinese tiger as a separate subspecies is still frequently questioned. This is an issue unlikely to be resolved as there is little information available on this subspecies and researchers remain in the dark regarding important things such as breeding, gestation and prey species.

Balinese tigers in captivity:

There is no record of a Balinese tiger ever being held in a zoo collection.

Relationship to the Javan tiger:

There are two common theories regarding the relationship of Balinese and Javan tigers.

The first idea suggests that the two subspecies were once of the one type, but during the Ice Age Bali became isolated from Java by the Bali Strait. This split the tigers into two groups which then went onto develop independently.

The second option considers that the tiger swam the narrow channel from one island to colonise the other. The Bali Strait is only 2.4 kilometres wide, making it well within the swimming ability of the average tiger. Whichever it was, the two went on to become quite different.

Bali - Page 1: In The Wild | 2: Subspecies Description | 3: Weight & Length Figures

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Photography With Thanks To John Burkitt, Cougar Hill Sanctuary Association
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