Although there were once nine subspecies of tigers, hunting, poaching and a loss of habitat have resulted in the extinction of three of these subspecies. These are:
This tiger, the scientific name of which is Panthera tigris balica, lived only on Bali island in Indonesia.
It was the smallest of all of the tiger subspecies. In fact, females could weigh as little as 65 kilograms or 140 pounds (although they usually averaged about 75 kilograms), and the larger males reached between 90 and 100 kilograms (or 200 to 220 pounds).
The Bali Tiger (Panthera tigris balica). The copyright licence for this image is unknown. It might be in the public domain in Indonesia if it was first published there more than 50 years ago, according to Article 30 of Indonesia Copyright Law No 19, 2002.
The Bali Tiger reached extinction due to hunting. Of course, because they were limited to Bali, there was not an enormous population to begin with. As people populated the island, they hunted the tiger in order to sell their pelts and organs, as well as to protect themselves from these hunters.
Bali Tigers had darker, shorter fur than the other subspecies. Generally, they had fewer black stripes too, giving them a more solid gold appearance. Notably, they also had bar-shaped patterning on their heads, which became a characteristic. The Bali Tiger had a lifespan of between eight and 10 years in the wild.
This subspecies was (and still is) an important part of the Balinese Hindu culture.
The Panthera tigris virgata – also known as the Caspian Tiger, Hyrcanian Tiger, Persian Tiger or Turan Tiger – once inhabited the area around the Caspian Sea, through Turkey, Iran and Central Asia to the Chinese desert of Xinjiang. These were once some of the biggest of the tiger subspecies, together with the Bengal Tiger. Males usually exceeded two metres in length.
In terms of its appearance, the Caspian Tiger had a brighter golden coat, with brown-gold stripes. In winter, the coat would become less bright, with less distinct patterning. The stripes were narrower and closer together than the other tiger subspecies.
When the Russians started to colonise Turkey during the late-1800’s, they began to hunt the Caspian Tiger with a vengeance. In addition, they hunted the natural prey of these predators, causing many to die from starvation. It is believed that the last Caspian Tiger was killed in the 1990’s. However, due to a lack of interest, this was never explored or confirmed.
The Panthera tigris sondaica died out in the 1970’s. As their name implies, these tigers were found exclusively on the island of Java. Although they began to be protected in 1947, it was too late to save the Java Tiger from succumbing to extinction. They were poisoned by locals wanting to protect themselves and hunted for reward or financial gain. They also died as a result of their prey being killed to the point of extinction.
The Java Tigers were very small, and males would only reach about 115 kilograms (equivalent to about 250 pounds), and females were smaller. Their noses were long and narrow, as were their stripes.
These three subspecies should serve as a warning to modern society about the threats facing our tigers today.