Thursday, September 27, 2007

September 27

balicolorFew events could be more depressing than the utter eradication of a species. On this date in 1937, the last of panthera tigris balica -- otherwise known as the Balinise Tiger -- is believed to have been shot at Sumbar Kima, West Bali. The adult tigress, like so many of her extinct relatives, was shot for sport, although the whereabouts of her carcass -- stuffed in whole or mounted in part -- have never been determined.

The smallest of the eight subspecies of tiger, the Balinese were ruined by a combination of trophy hunting and deforestation, the latter of which deprived it of the deer and monkey populations on which it relied for sustenance. The first of three species of tiger to disappear entirely from the planet, the Balinese tiger was later joined by the Javan and Caspian tigers, last sighted in 1983 and 1973, respectively. Three more subspecies -- the Sumatran, Siberian, and South China varieties -- currently teeter on the brink of extinction. Roughly 800-1000 Sumatran and Siberian tigers remain, while no South China tigers have been spotted in the wild since 1977. If the few dozen captive South China tigers survive, the reduction of their genetic diversity will forever assure the species of its endangered status.

Of the Balinese tiger, we have precious little evidence of their very existence. Worldwide, only eight skulls and five skins -- one of which was used for years as a rug -- have been catalogued by museums. No complete skeleton of the Balinese tiger has ever been assembled, and the only known photograph of the species is shown here.