Tiger Species Thought Extinct Is Possibly Spotted in Indonesia
By JON EMONT
SEPT. 15, 2017
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Park rangers in Indonesia may have spotted an animal thought to live only in folklore and history books: a Javan tiger, declared extinct more than 40 years ago.
Rangers at Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java last month photographed a big cat unlike any previously seen in the preserve. The pictures, released this week, set off a flurry of speculation that one of Indonesia’s legendary species was still alive, and offered a rare bit of positive environmental news to a country in which natural places are being destroyed at an alarming rate.
“This used to be Javan tiger habitat,” Mamat Rahmat, the head of conservation at the park, told the local news media. “We hope that they’re still there.”
The photograph, which circulated across social media, prompted the World Wildlife Fund to support an expedition in search of the supposed tiger.
Despite the rangers’ excitement, some conservationists were skeptical that the cat really was a Javan tiger. “When the video is frozen the effect is that it looks like a tiger”, said Wulan Pusparini, a tiger expert at the Wildlife Conservation Society, who viewed video footage of the animal. However, when the animal was seen moving, she said, it more closely resembled a leopard. Javan leopards are an endangered species, and are rarely seen.
Java is roughly the size of Pennsylvania, but with more than 140 million people it is the most heavily populated island in the world. It was once home to thousands of endemic species, but hunting and development have led to a mass extinction.
Only a few national parks in West Java contain what is left of the island’s large fauna, which include just 60 rhinos and a small population of leopards. Of the three subspecies of Indonesian tigers, two — the Bali tiger and the Javan tiger — have been declared extinct. The Sumatran tiger still exists on Sumatra, but it is considered critically endangered, the result of hunting and rapid deforestation.
“Javan tigers have been extinct for three generations,” Ms. Wulan said. She said she wished the Indonesian public would get as excited about saving endangered animals as they have been this week about the potential for discovering an extinct species.
“That’s the Javan leopard”, she said of the mysterious cat. “That’s the last large carnivore on Java. You would hope people would get excited about it.”
Scientists have filmed one of the world’s rarest, and ‘ugliest’, pigs in a forest in Java, Indonesia. The Javan warty pig is under such threat from hunting and habitat loss that conservationists surveying its habitat believed it might already have been driven to extinction: here.
Since gibbons can only survive in the wild as bonded pairs, rehabilitation efforts at the Java Gibbon Center depend on successful matchmaking. Supported by Conservation International and located on the edge of Indonesia’s Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, the center brought together two rescued gibbons, Jowo (male) and Bombom (female) — creating one of nature’s cutest love stories.
To learn more about this gibbon love story and Conservation International’s work to protect their habitiat, see here.
THE HAGUE – Monji saw on January 28, 1947 as a boy of 9 or 10 years old, that Indonesian men from Suppa village were beaten, stripped and shot by Dutch troops in South Sulawesi. The bodies were piled up and buried in holes in the ground. Eventually, 208 people were killed.
Another child who witnessed the extrajudicial killings was Paturusi (82) from the village Bulukumba. She saw that her father, a civil servant, had fled into the forest but had came out again. He was then executed. This Thursday they are two of the three children of then entering the court in The Hague. They demand a compensation of 20,000 euros from the Dutch government.
The government does not want to grant the children of executed people any compensation, as previously happened to widows of men killed.
According to lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld a statute of limitations does not apply. The children are also, like before, the widows, survivors directly involved and they are just as much victims of executions as widows. According to Zegveld it has been a very traumatic experience for the children to see their dead fathers.
Zegveld represents five children and 18 widows who have not yet received any compensation. … The widows have refused a settlement because the attorney’s fees would be deducted from their remuneration.
Leopard detected in conservation forests in East Java
Tue, February 4 2014 23:33
Tulungagung, E Java – The East Java chapter of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) has detected Javanese leopards (Panthera pardus melas) in four conservation forests in the region, stated its head, Hartoyo.
He released the statement here on Tuesday, in response to a declaration on saving the endangered Javanese leopard issued at a Javanese leopard conservation conference in Bogor, West Java, on January 29-30, 2014.
“So far, we have come to know about it, based on the reports indicating the existence of the wild animal and also from some eye witnesses,” he remarked during a telephonic conversation, when asked to give confirmation about the existence of the Javanese leopard.
He admitted that the existence of the Javanese leopard was not properly documented as it is not included as species whose protection must be prioritized based on the ministerial regulation.
The Javanese bull (Bos javanicus), Javanese eagle (Nisaetus bartelsi), and cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) have been identified by the ministry as three rare species and their monitoring has been prioritized.
The Javanese leopard is not included in the BKSDAs monitoring priority list as it is not included in the list of protected animals, although its existence in the forests is almost extinct.
“We are awaiting a legal decision to declare the Javanese leopard as a protected animal before we can make any protection plans,” he emphasized.
He explained that the existence of the big cat has been threatened by the loss of habitat due to deforestation as well as conflict with humans and diseases.
In the past five years, the Javanese leopard has been spotted in the Ijen (Bondowoso), Sempu (Malang), Sigoho, and Picis (Ponorogo) forests, he claimed.
However, their existence had yet to be confirmed based on the research and scientific monitoring data, he added.
“Now, confirmation of its existence is based on an ocular analysis and general information obtained from the witnesses. There has been no direct contact between the BKSDA officials and the animal, except in Ijen, some time ago,” he stated.
Leopard observer Hendra Gunawan pointed out that the Javanese leopard is the only big cat that still exists in Java after the Javanese tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) was declared extinct in the 1980s.
“Thus, unless serious efforts are made to protect the leopard, the fate of this big cat will also follow suit,” he remarked at the conference in Bogor.
No exact data is available on the exact numbers of the Javanese leopard existing in the forests of Java.
“Since mapping was conducted four years ago, the animal was mostly found in Halimun-Salak or Pangrango Mountain (West Java),” Hendra reported.
Reporting by Slamet Agus Sudarmojo
February 2014: Two men have been arrested in Malaysia by wildlife authorities following the discovery of a leopard carcass and a mouse deer at a bus stop near the town of Karak, in the state of Pahang, on the east coast of the country. Markings on the leopard’s foreleg indicate that a snare was used, a practice which is widespread among poachers in South-East Asia: here.
Indonesia builds sanctuary to save world’s rarest rhino
On a leaf-covered dirt path overlooking lush paddy fields in western Indonesia, the world’s rarest rhino had left a trail of hoofprints in the soft mud and bite marks on foliage.
For people seeking a glimpse of the Javan rhino—revered in local folklore as Abah Gede, or the Great Father—such small signs are likely to be the closest they get.
There are thought to be only around 50 of the animals left in existence, all living in the wild in Ujung Kulon National Park, an area of stunning natural beauty on the western tip of Indonesia’s main island of Java.
But now conservationists are hoping that the country’s first ever Javan rhino sanctuary, which will open in the park in the coming months, can pull the animal back from the brink of extinction.
The shy creature, whose folds of loose skin give it the appearance of wearing armour plating, once numbered in the thousands and roamed across Southeast Asia.
The new sanctuary will encompass 5,100 hectares (12,600 acres) of lush rainforest, freshwater streams and mudholes in the park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It is not due to open until March but park officials say that from hoofprints and bite marks, they believe nine rhinos have already wandered into new areas set aside for them.
“It means our scheme to turn this sanctuary into a comfortable home for them is working,” the park’s habitat manager Rusdianto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.
The rhinos were already living mainly in one corner of the park.
But the new sanctuary has expanded the area suitable for them and relocated farmers who were living there to reduce the chances of animal-human conflict.
An electric fence is also being constructed—the final piece of work that needs to be completed—to mark the boundary and prevent the rhinos from straying out of the sanctuary and humans from coming in.
Park officials, who are government employees, have also been planting suitable food for the rhinos. During a recent visit by AFP, workers were seen clearing palm trees from the area and replacing them with shrubs and small trees.
“We hope this sanctuary will hasten breeding and lead to more births of this treasured rare animal,” park chief Moh Haryono told AFP.
“In a more enclosed space, the male and female rhino will have more opportunities to frolic and mate freely.”
It was originally due to open in 2011 but was held up due to red tape, a common problem in the sprawling Indonesian archipelago, which has a huge and often inefficient bureaucracy.
Work also stalled for a year due to protests from residents demanding compensation for farmland they had to give up, as well as from local animal activists who felt the use of heavy machinery to build the fence threatened the environment.
However all obstacles now seem to have been overcome and, barring any last-minute hold-ups, the sanctuary should officially open soon.
Nevertheless it is just a small step in an uphill battle to save the Javan rhino. Officials in Ujung Kulon believe there were 51 of the rhinos in 2012, including eight calves, basing their estimate on images captured by hidden cameras.
They hope the true figure may be in the 70s and will have a new estimate once data for 2013 has been collated.
The case of the Javan rhinoceros highlights the plight of rhinos across the world, with other species also deemed to be under threat and some subspecies already believed to have died out.
Poaching in particular represents a severe threat, with rhino horns used in traditional Asian medicine fetching ever higher prices on the black market despite a lack of scientific evidence showing horn has any medicinal value.
In Indonesia, fewer than 100 of the critically endangered Sumatran rhinos remain; in 2011 the IUCN declared a rhino subspecies in western Africa extinct; and the group has said the Central African northern white rhino is “possibly extinct”.
Asia has stepped up efforts to save the region’s dwindling rhino populations, with representatives from several countries in October attending a conference on the issue on the western Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Countries represented, including Indonesia, Nepal and India, pledged to take steps to grow their rhino populations by three percent annually.
For the Javan rhino, its population already decimated, the threat is no longer poaching but food scarcity, illness and the risk of natural disasters in an archipelago where earthquakes and landslides are common, according to WWF Indonesia.
Despite the myriad threats, wildlife officials are hopeful the new sanctuary is a step in the right direction.
They have also been heartened by strong support from the local community.
Any effort to save the Great Father is applauded in an area where centuries-old beliefs persist and intertwine with the vast majority’s Muslim faith.
“We must do all we can to prevent the Javan rhino from becoming extinct,” Suhaya, a 67-year-old farmer who goes by one name, told AFP.
“Locals here believe that Abah Gede must not vanish from the face of the Earth, or disaster will befall us.”
What many people don’t know is that these mountains are also essential for local people. They serve as the primary water catchment area for over 30 million people living in five cities — including Jakarta, Indonesia’s bustling capital. Water filtered from this forest is so clean and pure that over 20 water bottling companies have situated themselves downstream. These forests also help to prevent floods and droughts for the millions of people in these cities.
Sadly, the forest is struggling. In the past few decades, much of it has been converted to farmland and residential areas. Illegal logging continues in the remaining forested areas, largely carried out by local people simply trying to make ends meet.
The Green Wall project involves replanting trees on the fringes of deforestation. It also includes a tree adoption program, agroforestry, community education and public outreach activities across the island. The project is described as a “green wall” as it lies on the boundaries of the national park — separating natural and degraded areas — and will protect against encroachment of critical ecosystem services.
In the last four years, we’ve managed to restore 200 hectares (almost 500 acres) of green wall — but with thousands of hectares of degraded landscape remaining, our work is far from done.
I work closely with the communities in this landscape to educate them on the importance of preserving the forest for future generations. It takes patience and commitment to shift the practices of local people from exploitation to sustainable management.
Part of that process involves offering the community direct benefits for supporting conservation, such as tools for agroforestry, livestock, fisheries and health services. In return, they must agree to actively support conservation efforts and refrain from contributing to deforestation in the park.
Sometimes these benefits can radically change the lives of rural residents in a single day. Last year, we installed piped water for over 500 families here, as well as electrical power for a village of six families. It was really satisfying to see the joy that the families gained from these basic services so many of us take for granted. (Learn more in the video … .)
When we talk about conservation, many people — both here in Indonesia and around the world — often think it’s about saving species. In reality, conservation is about changing people’s behavior in a way that benefits them, too.
We need to understand what’s important for these people, and then try to design a program that will change their behavior but also meet their needs. We need to be concerned about the state of the local population’s livelihoods, health care and food security because assisting with these factors is absolutely critical to gain local support for conservation. Only by addressing those issues can we get conservation going.
Looking ahead, we would like to continue to help local communities (who have committed to protecting the forest) with their daily needs, such as improved health through proper sanitation. We also need to raise our level of engagement with the general public and stakeholders in Java on the importance of this watershed and our conservation activities. We hope these next steps will allow us to help more people understand that protecting nature is for all of our benefit.
Anton Ario is CI-Indonesia’s Gedepahala program manager. Special thanks to Lynn Tang, communications manager for CI’s Asia-Pacific Field Division, for her help with this blog.
On Wednesday 10 December there will be live scientific research in the exhibition Dubois, discoverer of Pithecanthropus. Palaeobiologist Dr. Christine Hertler is measuring skulls and teeth of cattle and deer, which were exhumed by Eugene Dubois.
The discoverer of Pithecanthropus, Dr Eugene Dubois, was born in 1858 in the Netherlands; the exhibition commemorates that he was born 150 years ago.
He joined the Dutch colonial army in Indonesia as a doctor; because he thought he would be able to find fossil human ancestors in Java. The colonial authorities provided him with two sergeants and Indonesian forced labourers for his excavations around Trinil in East Java.
For this exhibition, only a small part of them could be on show.
They include many mammals. Some of them now extinct species, some of them species still alive today. Stegodon trigonocephalus is a now extinct elephant species. Only a few Javanese rhinos live in West Java today. Then, that species lived also in East Java.
According to Dr Hertler, comparatively few reptile fossils have been found in East Java, and not much research has been done on them. At the exhibition was a fragment of a monitor lizard, Varanus, fossil; of which it was not clear to which species it belonged. There were bones of the crocodile Crocodilus ossifragus. Another crocodile species, Gavialis bengawanicus, also lived near Trinil.
Dr Hertler said the big riverine turtles of the genus Batagur were the most commonly found fossil reptiles. She said that even bigger turtles, Geochelone atlas, had been found more to the west in Java; as far east as Sangiran.
Ms Hertler told me that now she is studying especially bovids and cervids; a student of hers is studying carnivorous mammals of Pleistocene Java in the Leiden fossil collection. By studying skulls and teeth of deer and cattle, she may find out in what kind of environment they (and Homo erectus) lived. Was it tropical rainforest; like all of Java would be today if there would have been no clearcutting for agriculture etc.? Was it savannah? Or something in between? And: Java being a big island, maybe there were local differences?
Teeth of deer and cattle tell whether the herbivores were browsing leaves from trees, or grazing grass from the ground; or maybe some combination of both. Sizes and limbs of animals say something on whether they lived on hard, dry grassland ground; or on soft, humid forest ground.
Her hypothesis is that Homo erectus, unlike earlier hominid species, was able to live in more than one type of environment. When the earlier species lived, there were already land bridges linking Africa to other continents. Yet, they did not use them. Probably because those early hominids were tied to one type of environment in Africa. Homo erectus, being more flexible, not being tied to one type of environment any more, could travel all the way from Africa to Java.
Dr Hertler told me that that morning, many people had come to ask her questions, including a class of schoolchildren.
The most frequent deer species of the east Javan Pleistocene is Cervus lydekkeri; related to axis deer of today. Around Trinil, two other species have also been found. One of those is the slightly larger Cervus kendengensis. The small muntjac, still existing today, was there, but rarer than today, as the environment then was not as favourable for it: more tree savanna, less rainforest.
The most common fossil bovid is Bubalus palaeokarabau. Around Trinil lived the ancestor of the present banteng, Bibos palaeosondaicus. At the exhibition were also remains of Epileptobos groeneveldtii.
Dr Hertler told me that from the sizes of skulls the animals’ body mass can be reconstructed.
Are there traces of Homo erectus hunting, scavenging, or eating on the animal bones? I asked.
Unfortunately not, Ms Hertler replied. The East Javanese fossils are found in riverine deposits. If there would be any traces of hominids on those bones, that environment would delete those traces, making it highly improbable that they will be discovered there. This is unlike Africa, where it is possible to find hominid traces on animal bones.
It might be possible to find traces of hunting in caves in Java. Near Yogyakarta, there is a cave where porcupines have brought remains of other animals. Maybe we will find one where Homo erectus did something similar.
After a pre-study, about three years ago, and later studies of the “big and well organized” Dubois fossils collection, Dr Hertler had found that indeed there was a varied environment during the Pleistocene in Java, depending on place and time. Several types of environment co-existed simultaneously. And in many of those various Pleistocene places, Homo erectus fossils have been found. “We always discover new things”.
Yes, much is uncertain about that, Ms Hertler replied. The teeth of hominids and of orangutans are very similar. So it is possible that teeth we have ascribed to Homo erectus will turn out to be orangutan teeth.
Why is most palaeontological research in Java done in the eastern part of the island? Because, Dr Hertler replied, the first Homo erectus fossils were found there. And because scientists want to find hominid fossils, which are most spectacular. Also, because West Java is more complex geologically, making the work harder.
Neanderthal genome already giving up its secrets: here.
Late Neanderthals and modern human contact in southeastern Iberia: here.
A new species of crown-antlered deer Stephanocemas (Artiodactyla, Cervidae) from the middle Miocene of Qaidam Basin, northern Tibetan Plateau, China, and a preliminary evaluation of its phylogeny: here.
First Potwarmus from the Miocene of Saudi Arabia and the early phylogeny of murines (Rodentia: Muroidea): here.
September 2010. An international partnership is racing against the clock to ensure the survival of the last viable population 48 Javan rhinos by carving out a safe haven in the dense jungles of Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. This entire viable population, living on the island of Java, is quite literally stuck between a rock and a hard place: here.