Bali tiger

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Bali tiger, Samong
The hunting party of Baron Oscar Vojnich with a Balinese tiger, shot at Gunung Gondol, NW Bali, Nov. 1911

Extinct  (1938) (IUCN 3.1)[1]
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: P. tigris
Subspecies: P. t. balica
Trinomial name
Panthera tigris balica
(Schwarz, 1912)
Former range of the Bali tiger

The Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica) is an extinct tiger subspecies that lived in the Indonesian island of Bali.[1] The last individuals were recorded in western Bali in the late 1930s. A few animals likely survived into the 1940s and possibly 1950s. The subspecies went extinct because of habitat loss and hunting.[2]

Since 2017, the IUCN Cat Specialist Group recognizes the tiger subspecies in the Sunda Islands as populations of Panthera tigris sondaica.[3]

Balinese names for the Bali tiger are harimau Bali and samong.[4]


Bali tigers had short fur that was a deeper, darker orange and had fewer stripes than other tiger subspecies. Occasionally, between the stripes, were small black spots. Bali tigers also had unusual, bar-shaped patterns on their heads. The white fur on their underbellies often stood out more than that of the other tiger subspecies because of their darker-colored fur. The white fur also had a more distinct and curved line.[citation needed]

The Bali tiger was the smallest of all nine tiger subspecies, comparable to the leopard or cougar in size. The weight of a male was usually 90–100 kg (200–220 lb); that of a female was 65–80 kg (143–176 lb). The male was about 220–230 cm (87–91 in) in length (with tail), and the female 190–210 cm (75–83 in).[5]


Bali tigers preyed on most mammals that lived within their habitat. Their major sources of food were wild boar, rusa deer, Indian muntjac, red junglefowl, monitor lizards, monkeys, and possibly banteng (the last now also extirpated on the island). The only known predators of Bali tigers were humans.[citation needed]


The Bali tiger had an average gestation period of 14–15 weeks. Females gave birth to two or three cubs per litter. The average birth weight of a cub was two to three pounds. Cubs were born blind and helpless and were weaned around one year of age, becoming fully independent at 18 months to 2 years of age. Their lifespans were about eight to ten years.[citation needed]

Relationship to the Javanese tiger[edit]

There are two common theories regarding the divergence of Balinese and Javan tigers: The first suggests that the two subspecies developed when Bali became isolated from Java by formation of the Bali Strait due to rising sea levels after the ice age. This split the tigers into two groups which then went on to develop independently.[citation needed] The second possibility is that the tigers swam from one island to colonize the other. The Bali Strait is only 2.4 km wide, making it well within the swimming ability of the average tiger.[6]

Documentation, hunting and tiger culture in Bali[edit]

A Bali tiger killed by M. Zanveld in 1922

In Balinese culture, the tiger has a special place in folk tales and traditional arts, as in the Kamasan paintings of the Klungkung kingdom. However, they were perceived as a destructive force and culling efforts were encouraged until extinction.

Very few reliable accounts of encounters and even fewer visual documentations remain. One of the most complete records was left by the Hungarian baron Oszkár Vojnich, who trapped, hunted, and took photos of a Balinese tiger. On 3 November 1911, he shot dead an adult specimen in the northwest region, between Gunung Gondol and Banyupoh River, documenting it in his book In The East Indian Archipelago.[7]

According to the same book, the preferred method of hunting tigers on the island was catching them with a large, heavy steel foot trap hidden under bait (goat or muntjak), and then killing them with a firearm at close range.

A final blow to the island's already low tiger population came during the Dutch colonial period, when shikari hunting trips were conducted by European sportsmen coming from Java, armed with high-powered rifles and a romantic but disastrous Victorian hunting mentality. Surabayan gunmaker E. Munaut is confirmed to have killed over 20 samong in only a few years.[7]

The last confirmed tiger sighting was of an adult female, killed on 27 September 1937, at Sumbar Kima, in western Bali. Since then, claims of sighting have been made, but without proof, mostly by forestry officers, in 1952, 1970 and 1972. Any remaining tigers were likely pushed to the western side of the island, mostly into an area that is now West Bali National Park, established in 1947.

The Balinese tiger was never captured alive on film or motion picture, or displayed in a public zoo, but a few skulls, skins and bones are preserved in museums. The British Museum in London has the largest collection, with two skins and three skulls; others include the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt, the Naturkunde Museum in Stuttgart, the Naturalis museum in Leiden and the Zoological Museum of Bogor, Indonesia, which owns the remnants of the last known Balinese tiger. In 1997, a skull emerged from the old collection of the Hungarian Natural History Museum and was scientifically studied and properly documented.[8]

Tigers had a well-defined position in folkloric beliefs and magic. For example, the Balinese considered the ground powder of tiger whiskers to be a potent and undetectable poison for one's foe.[9] According to the same book mentioning this, Miguel Covarrubias's Island Of The Gods, when a Balinese baby was born, he was given a protective amulet necklace with black coral and "a tiger's tooth or a piece of tiger bone".[10]

Like other Asian people, Balinese people are fond of wearing tiger parts as jewelry for status or spiritual reasons, such as power and protection. Necklaces of teeth and claws or male rings cabochoned with polished tiger tooth ivory still exist in everyday use. Since tigers have disappeared on both Bali and neighboring Java, old parts have been recycled, or leopard and sun bear body parts have been used instead. One of the traditional Balinese dances, the Barong, still preserves in one of its four forms a type called the Tiger Barong (Barong Macan).


In Indonesia, the Bali tiger was called harimau bali, and samong in Balinese.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jackson, P. & Nowell, K. (2008). "Panthera tigris ssp. balica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  2. ^ Seidensticker, J. (1987). "Bearing witness: observations on the extinction of Panthera tigris balica and Panthera tigris sondaica". In Tilson, R. L.; Seal, U. S. Tigers of the world: the biology, biopolitics, management, and conservation of an endangered species. New Jersey: Noyes Publications. pp. 1–8. 
  3. ^ Kitchener, A.C., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Eizirik, E., Gentry, A., Werdelin, L., Wilting, A. and Yamaguchi, N. (2017). "A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group" (PDF). Cat News. Special Issue 11: 76. 
  4. ^ Crawfurd, J. (1820). History of The Indian Archipelago. Volume II, Edinburgh. pp. 144.
  5. ^ Mazák, V. (1981). "Panthera tigris" (PDF). Mammalian Species. 152: 1–8. doi:10.2307/3504004. 
  6. ^ Novak, R. M. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World (6th ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9. 
  7. ^ a b Vojnich, G. (1913). A Kelet-Indiai Szigetcsoporton [in the East Indian Archipelago]. Singer & Wolfner, Budapest, pp. 264.
  8. ^ Buzas, B. and Farkas, B. (1997). An additional skull of the Bali tiger, Panthera tigris balica (Schwarz) in the Hungarian Natural History Museum. Miscellanea Zoologica Hungarica Vol 11 pp: 101-105.
  9. ^ Miguel Covarrubias, Island Of Bali, 1937, NY published by Alfred A. Knopf Inc., pp. 75.
  10. ^ Miguel Covarrubias, Island Of Bali, 1937, NY published by Alfred A. Knopf Inc., pp. 105.
  11. ^ Crawfurd, J. (1820). History Of The Indian Archipelago. Volume II. Edinburgh. Pp. 144.

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