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.

Asian Leopard cat and Sunda leapard cat

An Asian Leopard cat

Asian Leopard cat


As you can see quite an impressive range. They Asian leopard cat, was once thought to be the same species as the Sunda leopard cat, with the difference only recognized in 2017. It is roughly twice the size of a domestic cat.

There are 2 subspecies currently agreed, one being the  mainland and the other being the Island Sunda leopard cat (I have included an image of the Sunda Leopard cat below).

Below that is a list of any article which mentions the leopard cat, as well as a video of this species. Beneath all of this, we will also add any links that we can to help you see this species in the wild. Do get in touch if you work in ecotourism and ever see this species. We would love to help people find you.

The majority of videos are of this species in captivity, as they are hard to see in the wild. Having said this, we are eager to list any people who work in ecotourism in the this animals range and occasionally see it in the course of their work (we are also keen to list people working in this field who see other species, but they will not appear on this species page but others).

Domestic cat

Domestic cat

Domestic cats are thought to have been first tamed back around 10,000 somwhere in the middle east. Unfortunately, as this is the cat that makes up the worldwide domestic cat population (almost exclusively) in many regions like Scotland, while reduction in numbers made specific subspecies of wildcat endangered, it has often been hybridisation that has pushed them over the edge.

There is little point in showing a map of the world, as they are found in almost every human population. It is thought that there are at least 200 million across the globe

Domestic cats are thought to have been tamed in Israel, which has unfortunately meant that this species of wild cat is now spread across the globe – many local species of wildcat have become extinct through hybridisation, the British wildcat is just one such example. There are now only pure British wildcats in captivity, and while there are still quite a few living wild in Scotland they have Asiatic wildcat features. This has happened in many places and solutions are not yet forthcoming.

While unfortunate, there is still work being done. In the UK there are plans to clear a peninsular of domestic cats, and re-establish a wildcat population. Only in situations like Scotland is hybridization likely, the most common reaction to a wildcat meeting a domestic cat is for the wildcat to kill the domestic cat. I hope to live to see the wildcat roaming Scotland once more, but we will se what happens.

They are not hard to see if you are in the right place. I have seen them in Africa, take a night drive in almost any nature reserve. Links will be added below.

Lynx (canada)

Canada lynx

The Canada lynx is one of 2 new world species, and is found through much of Canada and Alaska, throughout the Boreal forests of spruce and fir. They are hunted but the harvest is worked out on the basis of the population, so it rises and falls quite a lot. Climate change is effecting its northern range, and unfortunately is bringing this cat and the bobcat into more common contact, leading to an increasing number of hybrids along the area that they meet. There are thought to be 10-12 thousands of the Canada lynx across its range.

Lynx (Iberian)

Lynx (Iberian)

Iberian lynx ( Lynx pardinus ) lying down on a rock in Spain

Iberian Lynx: Once found throughout the Iberian Peninsular as well as much of France: The Iberian lynx population fell to just 94 cats in two populations (23 years ago). Through intensive work the population has returned to 1668 as of May in 2023. This is currently restricted to just the south and west of the Iberian peninsular, but is likely to slowly expand its range North and East.

It is fantastic to see the Iberian Lynx returning to places that it was found in the past, however, what is clear is that as the human race, our current understanding of science allows a great deal of power, and it is scary to think that the introduction of an illness to kill rabbits could come so close to exterminating all Iberian Lynx.

 

Lynx (eurasian)

Eurasian Lynx

Eurasian Lynx: found across Russia, down into central Asia, Eastern and Northern Europe: After reaching its minimum around the middle of the 20th century, it has recovered in different directions. While no where near its natural numbers in much of its range, it has expanded numbers in the north in Scandinavia, and the north-west Scandinavia. Reintroduction schemes have also reintroduced them to the Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland (and France) and Poland. There are currently thought to be around 50,000 left in the wild, however their distribution is highly varied from country to country, and there are many areas where they are locally extinct.

 

Big cat family tree

The Cat (felidae) family tree

The Cats form an incredibly successful family. It is true that they are missing from the polar regions, and Australasia, but everywhere that they reached they have been successful, and in many ecosystems they are the undisputed kings

Panthera Family

 This family split from hte Felid ancestor 10.8 million years ago. There have been some debate as to whether the two species of clouded leopards should be included in Panthera. On the circular mammal tree (which we are using – look in the species watch tab, or click here)

They are generally included in a subgenus Panthera_Neofilis

 

Bay cat Familiy

Bay cat ancestor split 9.4 milion years ago

Caracal Family

Caracal Ancestor split 8.5 million years ago

Ocelot Family

Ocelot Ancestor 2.9 million years ago

Lynx Family

Lynx Ancestor 3.2 million years ago

Puma Family

Puma ancestor 4.9 million years ago

Leopard cat Family

Leopard cat Ancestor 5.9 million year ago

Domestic cat Family

Domestic cat Ancestor

Clouded leopard and Sunda clouded leopard

Clouded leopard and sunda clouded leopard

Clouded leopards are actually one of the most ancient cat species, however due to their inability to roar or purr, they cannot officially be considered a big cat (roar) or a small cat (purr) due to their definition, which puts them in an odd category. They are most closely related to snow leopards, and are in the same family as the big cats from genetic research. It has recently been confirmed that there are 2 different clouded leopard species, one on the mainland, and the other on the islands (the sunda clouded leopard.

Both species are considered vulnerable. The mainland clouded leopard is thought to number between 3700 and 5580, while the sunda clouded leopard is thought to number around 4500 3800 in Borneo and 730 on Sumatra.

Clouded leopards are found in the forests of South East Asia. Both Poaching and habitat loss threaten their future survival is not easy to see, it makes it is hard for it to be clear what its current range is. However, if you simply compare extinct to all possible remaining habitat, you can see the best possibiltiy is that range has reduced by around 50%


The clouded leopard has been split into two species – the Clouded leopard found on mainland Asia (big picture at the top), and the Sunda clouded leopard (picture above) found on Borneo and Sumatra (these Sunda Clouded leopards have not interbred for a very long time so are considered 2 subspecies). 

 

This is a further image of a clouded leopard though taken in a US zoo, which allows an easier time of getting a good view of the head.

The map above shows the former and current range for these two species. As we start to link with places on the ground, we are likely to create separate pages for each of these clouded leopard species. Below is a video of each species of clouded leopard.

We look to work with people on the ground. Do get in touch if you live or work in the area, and can help people see these incredible animals click here

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