CaspianTiger -- Panthera tigris virgata

Caspian - Page 1: In The Wild | 2: Subspecies Description | 3: Photographic Records | 4: Weight & Length Figures

Shaded Area: Historical Range for the Caspian tiger.

The last Caspian:

"Colouration resembles that of the Bengal tiger. In winter, the hair is very long, and the tiger has a well developed belly mane and a short nape mane. There are now fewer than 100 Caspian tigers, but their numbers seem to be increasing." 

This text was written in 1975 and only five years later the Caspian, locally known as the Hyrcanian or Turan tiger, (Panthera tigris virgata) was declared extinct.

It is commonly stated that the Caspian tiger finally disappeared sometime in the late 1950s; the year given is usually 1959 and the accompanying information often makes reference to the last specimen as having been shot in Golestan National Park, Iran. Some other reports state that the last Caspian was shot in Northern Iran in 1959, and there are even claims of a documented killing of this subspecies at Uludere, Hakkari in Turkey during 1970. Yet other reports say the final Caspian was captured in Northeast Afghanistan in 1997. No one really knows for certain. But even the most frequently quoted date (late 1950s) has almost no evidence to back it up. It appears this date came to be accepted after being quoted by H. Ziaie in "A Field Guide to the Mammals of Iran".

After contact with Iran, it now seems the most evidence reflects an even earlier date of extinction. The area of Iran that last contained Caspian tigers was in fact the eastern region of Mazandaran, Northern Iran. According to E. Firouz (A Guide to the Fauna of Iran, 1999) and H. Tajbakhsh & S. Jamali (Nakhjeeran, 1995) the last tiger was killed in 1947 near "Agh-Ghomish" Village, 10 km from East of Kalaleh, on the way to Minoodasht- Bojnoord.

Historic range for the Caspian tiger:

This tiger once ranged throughout the humid forests, mangroves and grasslands of Afghanistan, Turkey, Mongolia, Iran, Northern Iraq, Azerbaizhan, Turkmenistan (Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Termez, Kunya-Urgench, Merv), Uzbekistan and the Central Asiatic areas of Russia. In these isolated regions ungulates were numerous.


Politics worked heavily to eradicate the Caspian subspecies, with the Russian government planning a huge land reclamation programme. They considered there was no room for the tiger in their plans and so instructed the Russian army to exterminate all tigers found around the area of the Caspian  Sea,  a  project which was carried out very efficiently. The image below shows a 1912 Russian hunting party in Khorasan, with the results of a successful hunt. Once the extermination was almost complete, farmers followed, clearing forests and planting crops like rice and cotton. As the lowlands were reclaimed the tigers withdrew into middle and upper forest ranges, an area they were unable to sufficiently adapt to.  

The few remaining tigers faced significant loss of their primary prey species, the boar. The Caspian is known to have followed the migratory herds of their preferred prey animals. In recognition of this the Kazakh people referred to this tiger as the "road" or "travelling leopard".

Reported sightings:

There are still occasional claims of the Caspian tiger being sighted, with some occurring in Afghanistan, (pug marks have occasionally been reported here), and others coming from the more remote forested areas of Turkmenistan. Alas, experts have been unable to find any solid evidence to substantiate these claims and the last reliable sighting was probably at least 30 years ago. It has also been suggested that the 'tiger' sightings may actually be Persian leopards. Any hope of Caspian tigers in Afghanistan could be further dashed as war continues to rage across areas of the country.

Without photographic evidence, expert assessment of pug marks (tiger paw prints), attacks on animals or people, or a sighting by an expert authority, there is presently no good reason to believe that the Caspian still lives.

Caspian - Page 1: In The Wild | 2: Subspecies Description | 3: Photographic Records | 4: Weight & Length Figures

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Artwork With Thanks To The Nature & Wildlife Museum Of Iran & Iran Zoo
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