Does the Javan Tiger Survive
Cat News 18 (1993)
The Javan tiger Panthera tigris sondaica has been presumed to have become extinct during the 1980s. However, in 1990, Mike Griffiths, a WWF field biologist, inspected claw marks on a tree in the Meru Betiri reserve which could have been made by a tiger. And last November the Jakarta Times reported that a wild tiger had been photographed in the reserve. WWF will now carry out a survey, in which Griffiths will use a remote photo survey technique he has developed, to establish whether tigers survive in Meru Betiri. In 1981, tiger specialist John Seidensticker, who had worked extensively in Meru Betiri, reported that only 3-5 tigers might still live there.
In a report to WWF on the claw marks, Griffiths said they were fresh and two metres above the ground on a tree near Gunung Gendong in the east of the park. Several clear pugmarks were also found in the area and these measured 16-17 cm in width, which was clearly too large for a leopard.
He said that the claw marks looked very similar to marks he had seen in Sumatra when a tiger exercises his claws on a tree trunk. The tree was cut down and the section is stored in the wildlife department office at Jember. Pugmarks were found on a trail in the Gunung Tajem area in March 1992. Local people said they were larger than those of leopards, with which they were familar. Griffiths concludes that there are, at best, very few tigers left in Meru Betiri, but there remains an outside chance of getting a photograph.
In a paper describing a camera trap survey of tigers in Gunung Leuser Reserve in Sumatra, Griffiths said that cameras were set up beside game trails. They were equipped with a simple triggering device, such as a pressure mat on the path, which activitated the camera when trodden on. Electronic flash was used. When each camera was set up the film was indexed by photographing a man holding a card with name of the location and a survey pole for later use in measuring the passing animals. Identification of photographed tigers was made by individual stripe patterns on the sides of the abdomen, the face and the outside of the upper hind legs. Sometimes, body measurements with the aid of the survey pole helped identification. Sex was identified from the presence or not of external genitalia. It was frequently possible to know the time of day from indications in the photos. The photos obtained gave information on the home ranges of some tigers and made it possible to make a broad estimate of the population in various habitats in Gunung Leuser.