Cat sight­ing raises hope that ex­tinct tiger is back

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATION & WORLD - By Jon Emont

JAKARTA, IN­DONE­SIA >> Park rangers in In­done­sia may have spot­ted an an­i­mal thought to live only in folk­lore and his­tory books: a Ja­van tiger, de­clared ex­tinct more than 40 years ago. Rangers at Ujung Ku­lon Na­tional Park in West Java last month pho­tographed a big cat un­like any pre­vi­ously seen in the pre­serve. The pic­tures, re­leased this week, set off a flurry of spec­u­la­tion that one of In­done­sia’s leg­endary species was still alive, and of­fered a rare bit of pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal news to a coun­try in which nat­u­ral places are be­ing de­stroyed at an alarm­ing rate. “This used to be Ja­van tiger habi­tat,” Ma­mat Rah­mat, head of con­ser­va­tion at the park, told the lo­cal news me­dia. “We hope that they’re still there.”

The pho­to­graph, which cir­cu­lated across so­cial me­dia, prompted the World Wildlife Fund to sup­port an ex­pe­di­tion in search of the sup­posed tiger. De­spite the rangers’ ex­cite­ment, some con­ser­va­tion­ists were skep­ti­cal that the cat re­ally was a Ja­van tiger. “When the video is frozen the ef­fect is that it looks like a tiger,” said Wu­lan Pus­parini, a tiger ex­pert at the World Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety, who viewed video footage of the an­i­mal. How­ever, when the an­i­mal was seen mov­ing, she said, it more closely re­sem­bled a leop­ard. Ja­van leop­ards are an en­dan­gered species and rarely seen. Java is roughly the size of Penn­syl­va­nia, but with more than 140 mil­lion peo­ple, it is the most heav­ily pop­u­lated is­land in the world. It was once home to thou­sands of en­demic species, but hunt­ing and de­vel­op­ment have led to a mass ex­tinc­tion. Only a few na­tional parks in West Java con­tain what is left of the is­land’s large fauna, which in­clude just 60 rhi­nos and a small pop­u­la­tion of leop­ards. Of the three sub­species of In­done­sian tigers, two — the Bali tiger and the Ja­van tiger — have been de­clared ex­tinct. Wu­lan said she wished the In­done­sian pub­lic would get as ex­cited about sav­ing en­dan­gered an­i­mals as they have been about the po­ten­tial for dis­cov­er­ing an ex­tinct species.

UJUNG KOLON NA­TIONAL PARK / NEW YORK TIMES

Rangers at Ujung Ku­lon Na­tional Park in In­done­sia pho­tographed a mys­te­ri­ous big cat last month that trig­gered spec­u­la­tion it might be a Ja­van tiger, long de­clared ex­tinct.

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