Javan Tiger

Javan Tiger

The Javan tiger was a population native to the Indonesian island of Java until the mid-1970s. It was hunted to extinction, and its natural habitat converted for agricultural land use and infrastructure. It was one of the three tiger populations in the Sunda Islands.

Formerly, it was regarded as a distinct tiger subspecies, which had been assessed as extinct on the IUCN Red List in 2008. However, new genetic analysis clearly showed that it is not distinct enough to be able to be a separate species.

Results of mitochondrial DNA analysis of 23 tiger samples from museum collections indicate that tigers colonized the Sunda Islands during the last glacial period 110,000–12,000 years ago.

As a result, should some space be made for this species to return it could. It is unlikely in the near future.

South China Tiger

South China Tiger

The South China tiger was a population of the Panthera tigris tigris subspecies that is native to southern China. I say was, because it is almost certain that there are no individuals left in the wild (and they have not been recorded since the 1980s.

The population mainly inhabited the Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces. It has been listed as Critically Endangered on the China’s Red List of Vertebrates. Even in the late 1990s continued survival was considered unlikely because of low prey density, widespread habitat degradation and fragmentation, and other environmental issues in China. In the fur trade, it used to be called Amoy tiger. It is generally considered to be the closest remaining tiger to the original tiger from which all the sub-species split.

As late as the 1950s, there was estimated 4000 remaining in the wild, but a campaign by the government to remove pests. Along with habitat loss, this reduced the population to around 150-200 by the 1980s. In 2007, both a cow and a bear was killed,  and bore signs that it was a tiger. This is the last concrete evidence of the South China tiger.

This leaves the captive population. In March 1986, 17 Chinese zoos kept 40 pure-bred South China tigers in their collections, including 23 males and 14 females. All were third or fourth generation descendants of one wild tigress from Fujian and five tigers from Guizhou. This is not many to rebuild a population. By 2005, the captive population of South China tigers consisted of 57 individuals that showed signs of inbreeding, including reduced genetic diversity and a low rate of successful breeding. In 2007, the global captive population consisted of 72 individuals; there are few captive South China tigers outside China. 

Unfortunately, in the past zoos were bad at keeping sub-species separate. Generally they can interbreed, though they often loose features that would help them survive in the wild. One example would be moving a Sumatran tiger to Northern Russia; despite being the same species one is substantially bigger than the other, fur is different lengths and the differences continue. More importantly, not only would a Sumatran tiger probably die fast in the far east of Russia, but an Amur tiger would probably do no better in the steamy forests of Sumatra.

Few seem to be “pure” South China tigers as there is genetic evidence of cross-breeding with other subspecies. In 2019 there were an estimated 150 South China tigers in captivity within China. 144 of these were part of the breeding and management program maintained by the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens since 1994, five were in Guizhou province, and one was in Fujian province. China’s captive South China tigers have been entered onto a centrally registered studbook. Before the studbook was established it was thought that this captive population was too small and lacking in genetic diversity for any re-population program to be successful, but since the start of the central register more and more South China tigers have been identified in zoos across China.

The word “rewilding” was coined by conservationist and ex-carnivore manager of Pilanesberg National Park, Gus Van Dyk in 2003. Van Dyk, who in an effort to find the most appropriate translation of the Chinese term “Yě-huà” (Chinese: 野化), chose to adopt the term “rewilding” to describe Save China’s Tigers rewilding project of the South China tiger. Since then, the term “rewilding” has been widely used by wildlife organisations worldwide.

One cub was born in this private reserve  in November 2007, the first to be born outside China. Since then, a number of cubs have been produced. As of 2016, the Laohu Valley Reserve had 19 individuals. 

The organisation Save China’s Tigers, working with the Wildlife Research Center of the State Forestry Administration of China and the Chinese Tigers South Africa Trust, secured an agreement on the reintroduction of Chinese tigers into the wild. The agreement, which was signed in Beijing on 26 November 2002, calls for the establishment of a Chinese tiger conservation model through the creation of a pilot reserve in China where indigenous wildlife, including the South China tiger, will be reintroduced. Save China’s Tigers aims to rewild the critically endangered South China tiger by bringing a few captive-bred individuals to a private reserve in the Free State province of South Africa for rehabilitation training so that they can regain their hunting instincts. At the same time, a pilot reserve is being set up in China. Once it is ready, the offspring of the trained tigers will be released there, while the original animals will stay in South Africa to continue breeding. The reason South Africa was chosen is because it is able to provide expertise and resources, land and prey for the South China tigers. The South China tigers of the project have since been successfully rewilded and are fully capable of hunting and surviving on their own. This project has also been very successful in the breeding of these rewilded South China tigers and 14 cubs have been born in the project, of which 11 survived. These second generation cubs would be able to learn their survival skills from their successfully rewilded mothers directly. It was hoped that in 2012 the second-generation tigers born at Laohu Valley Reserve could be released into the wild.

Work is still ongoing, though no reserve has yet been formed. We can only encourage and pray that this changes. For the foreseeable future, the only South China tigers in the wild, will live in South Africa. 

Caspian Tiger

Caspian Tiger

The Caspian tiger (it was also called Balkhash tiger, Hyrcanian tiger, Turanian tiger, and Mazandaran tiger) was a tiger subspecies native to eastern Turkey, northern Iran, Mesopotamia, the Caucasus around the Caspian Sea, Central Asia to northern Afghanistan and the Xinjiang region in western China. Until the Middle Ages, it was also present in southern Russia. It inhabited sparse forests and riverine corridors in this region until the 1970s. 

This population was regarded as a distinct subspecies called the Caspian tiger and assessed as extinct in 2003. However genetic analysis showed that the two subspecies shared a common continuous geographic distribution until the early 19th century. As such they are not distinct enough to be considered a separate subpseices. The encouraging thing about this, is that it means that if the Amur tiger continues to recover, it can also be translocated throughout the Caspian tiger range, as well as the whole of the former Amur tiger range. Some of the tigers from this area were smaller, but not by too much.

Currently, there is no tigers in the Caspian tiger range, hopefully there will be soon – there is a plan to reintroduce them to Kazakhstan, work has been underway for quite some time, to get the area ready for the tigers return. This work is still underway, and unless something strange happens it should still occur in the future.

Indo-Chinese Tiger

Indo-chinese Tiger

This sub-species is found in Myanmar(85)) and Thiland(237), with a total population of an estimated 342 individuals. Back in 2009-2014 the population was thought to be between 189-252 in this period. Vietnam is only thought to have 5 remaining, while Laos is thought to have 2. Historically, it was also found in Cambodia and China. Historically, it is thought that this species range would have gone further North, potentially up to Chittagong Hill Tracts and Brahmaputra River basin, where the Bengal tiger populations range ended.

In Myanmar, surveys were conducted between 1999 and 2002, confirming the presence of tigers in the Hukawng Valley, Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary and in two small areas in the Tanintharyi Region. The Tenasserim Hills is an important area, but forests are harvested there (which means that they may be too much disruption for the tiger to survive here). In 2015, a camera trap took an image of a tiger in the hill forests of Kayin State. Camera trap surveys between 2016 and 2018 revealed about 22 adult individuals in three sites that represent 8% of the potential tiger habitat in the country. How many the rest of the country could support even if they had to be reintroduced is beyond the scope of this.

More than half of the total Indochinese tiger population survives in the Western Forest Complex in Thailand (Covering an area of about 18,000 sq. km. extended into Myanmar border along the Tennaserim Range and abreviated to (WEFCOM)) is considered as the largest remaining forest track in the mainland Southeast Asia that is made up of 17  protected areas (without gaps between them; 11 national parks and 6 wildlife sanctuaries.), especially in the area of the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. This habitat consists of tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests. Camera trap surveys from 2008 to 2017 in eastern Thailand detected about 17 adult tigers in an area of 4,445 km2 (1,716 sq mi) in Dong Phayayen–Khao Yai Forest Complex. Several individuals had cubs. The population density in Thap Lan National Park, Pang Sida National Park and Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary was estimated at 0.32–1.21 individuals per 100 km2 (39 sq mi). Three subadult tigers were photographed in spring 2020 in a remote region of Thailand that are thought to be dispersing – moving out of areas which they were born into, and trying to find territory of their own.

In Laos, 14 tigers were documented in Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area during surveys from 2013 to 2017, covering four blocks of about 200 km2 (77 sq mi) semi-evergreen and evergreen forest that are interspersed with some patches of grassland. Surveys that have been carried out since, have failed to detect any tigers, and the likelihood is that they have been extirpated as a result of poaching. Given the huge value of dead tigers in Chinese medicine, this is not a big surprise, as the current value for a carcass of a dead tiger is around £67,000 before doing anything with it, the value of it after extracting everything used in Chinese medicine (no evidence that it does anything) is around 5 times higher or £335,000. That is a huge windfall, but given that the average salary in Thailand is about £2200 a year (meaning that while many earn a great deal more than this, also many earn much less). 335,000, therefore represents perhaps 150 years of average salary. This is another place, where tourism can help. A thriving tourism industry will bring well paid jobs to many, and will therefore, not only preserve the tiger, but has the capacity of lifting many communities out of destitution.

In eastern Cambodia, tigers were last recorded in Mondulkiri Protected Forest and Virachey National Park during surveys between 1999 and 2007. In 2016, the Cambodian government declared that the tiger was “functionally extinct”. In April 2023, India signed a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia to assist the country with the tiger’s reintroduction. At least 90 acres (36 ha) of the Cardamom Mountains of Tatai Wildlife Sanctuary could be used to host Bengal tigers (though this if a correct number is not going to do much for a wild tiger).

From the 1960s and earlier, the Indochinese tiger occurred throughout the mountains in Vietnam, even in the midlands and Islands. In the report of the Government of Vietnam at the Tiger Forum in 2004, there would be tigers in only 17 provinces and they were living in fragmented and severely degraded forest areas. Tigers were still present in 14 protected areas in the 1990s, but none have been recorded in the country since 1997. There is news of its extinction in both countries. In Laos, no tiger has been seen since 2013, when its populations were estimated at only two, and these two individuals simply vanished shortly after 2013 from Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area, denoting they were most likely killed either by snare or gun. In Vietnam, a 2014 IUCN Red List report indicated that tigers were possibly extinct in Vietnam.

In China, it occurred historically in Yunnan province and Mêdog County, where it probably does not survive today.  Thus, probably the Indochinese tiger now only survives in Thailand and Myanmar. In Yunnan’s Shangyong Nature Reserve, three individuals were detected during surveys carried out from 2004 to 2009.

In Thailand’s Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, 11 individual tigers were equipped with GPS radio collars between June 2005 and August 2011. Females had a mean home range of 70.2km2 (27.1 sq mi) and males of 267.6km2 (103.3sq mi).

Between 2013 and 2015, 11 prey species were identified at 150 kill sites. They ranged in weight from 3 to 287 kg.  Sambar deer, banteng, gaur, and wild boar were most frequently killed, but also remains of Asian elephant calves, hog badger, Old World porcupine, muntjac, serow, pangolin, and langur species were identified.

The primary threat to the tiger is poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. Tiger bone has been an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 1,500 years and is either added to medicinal wine, used in the form of powder, or boiled to a glue-like consistency. More than 40 different formulae containing tiger bone were produced by at least 226 Chinese companies in 1993. Tiger bone glue is a popular medicine among urban Vietnamese consumers.

Between 1970 and 1993, South Korea imported 607 kg  of tiger bones from Thailand and 2,415 kg from China between 1991 and 1993. Between 2001 and 2010, wildlife markets were surveyed in Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos. During 13 surveys, 157 body parts of tigers were found, representing at least 91 individuals. Whole skins were the most commonly traded parts. Bones, paws, and penises were offered as aphrodisiacs in places with a large sex industry. Tiger bone wine was offered foremost in shops catering to Chinese customers. Traditional medicine accounted for a large portion of products sold and exported to China, Laos, and Vietnam. Between 2000 and 2011, 641 tigers, both live and dead, were seized in 196 incidents in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and China; 275 tigers were suspected to have leaked into trade from captive facilities. China was the most common destination of the seized tigers.

 

In Myanmar’s Hukaung Valley, the Yuzana Corporation, alongside local authorities, has expropriated more than 200,000 acres (81,000 ha) of land from more than 600 households since 2006. Much of the trees have been logged, and the land has been transformed into plantations. Some of the land taken by the Yazana Corporation had been deemed tiger transit corridors. Without this land, smaller reserves can instantly become incapable of supporting tigers longterm. These are areas of land that were supposed to be left untouched by development in order to allow the region’s Indochinese tigers to travel between protected pockets of reservation land.

Since 1993, the Indochinese tiger has been listed on CITES Appendix I, making international trade illegal. China, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and Taiwan banned trade in tigers and sale of medicinal derivatives. Manufacture of tiger-based medicine was banned in China, and the open sale of tiger-based medicine reduced significantly since 1995.

Patrolling in Thailand’s Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary has been intensified since 2006 so that poaching appears to have been reduced, resulting in a marginal improvement of tiger survival and recruitment. By autumn 2016, at least two individuals had dispersed to adjacent Mae Wong National Park; six cubs were observed in Mae Wong and the contiguous Khlong Lan National Park in 2016, indicating that the population was breeding and recovering.[43]

In Thailand and Laos, this tiger is considered Endangered, while it is considered Critically Endangered in Vietnam and Myanmar. Of course, if all this is correct, then some of these countries should amend their listing to extinct.

The Indochinese tiger is the least represented in captivity and is not part of a coordinated breeding program. As of 2007, 14 individuals were recognized as Indochinese tigers based on genetic analysis of 105 captive tigers in 14 countries. This is no where near enough to be able to do a reintroduction.

I will hope to add links to help arrange travel to see this species, do get in touch if you can help

Malaysian Tiger

Malayan Tiger walking1 Angah hfz
Malaysian Tiger photo credit Angah hfz

Malaysian Tiger

The Malayan tiger is a subspecies that is native to Peninsular Malaysia. This population inhabits the southern and central parts of the Malay Peninsula and has been classified as nationally critically endangered. As of April 2014, the population was estimated at 80 to 120 mature individuals with a continuous declining trend. If you look it up, current numbers appear to vary depending on what you are looking at. These numbers may well come from the IUCN, however there is a range of estimates; Save the Malaysian tiger estimates the population between 250 and 340. The most common number is around 150, which if true suggests that while the population is not falling, it is not recovering very fast either (whether this is due to poaching or habitat availability will have to be explored in another article). This is down from 3000 in the 1950s. While there is clearly no longer enough space for this number, Malaysia can certainly host more, and provided they are not targeted, this population should continue to grow. It should also be noted, that the tiger is likely to be worth a great deal to the country in the future in tourism income.

In the Malay language, the tiger is called harimau, also abbreviated to rimau. It is also known as the southern Indochinese tiger, to distinguish it from tiger populations in northern parts of mainland Southeast Asia, which are genetically different to this population.

There are reserves to head to, in order to give you the biggest chance to see these tigers in the wild. We hope to link with these people in time, any visit is worthwhile though, as it will incentivize money to preserve the population that remains.

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