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Jakarta Post

Wonogiri residents claim sightings of extinct Javan tiger

  • Ganug Nugroho Adi

    The Jakarta Post

Wonogiri, Central Java   /   Sun, April 1, 2018   /   06:39 pm
Wonogiri residents claim sightings of extinct Javan tiger Seven Javan leopards and one Javan tiger killed during Rampokan, a traditional Javan big cat fight. (Wikimedia Commons/Boomgaard/Frontiers of fear.)

A number of residents in Nguntoronadi district, Wonogiri regency, Central Java, claim to have seen tigers that have been declared extinct in the Mount Pegat area. The local office of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), however, was quick to dismiss the sightings as Javan leopards.

“I have seen Javan tigers on Mt. Pegat and forests around the mountain. I saw a tiger playing with her three cubs,” Mt. Pegat juru kunci (mountain attendant) Suratno, 58, said on Sunday.

Javanese culture recognizes the role of juru kunci, the literal translation of which is the one who holds the key. Juru kunci are tasked with watching over places such as mountains, cemeteries or rivers.

Suratno said Mt. Pegat had an area called Song Gogor, where locals believed tigers and their cubs dwelled. The species was believed to have gone extinct in the 1980s.

“Javan tigers are not extinct. They have stripes. There has also been sightings of tigers leaving sugarcane fields, usually in the afternoon,” Suratno said.

Harjanto, 56, a resident of Kepuh Kulon, Bumiharjo in Wonogiri, said he had seen large striped cats in Mt. Pegat. However, he could not confirm whether they were Javan tigers. “What I saw had a big body, with stripes. I don’t know whether it was a tiger,” he said.

Sagimin, a resident of Bumiharjo village, claims to have seen a tiger near his house

 “The body was the size of a calf and it had stripes. During the dry season, tigers usually find water in the river near our kampung. I don’t believe the tigers are extinct. I’ve seen them four times,” Sagimin said.

However, Central Java’s BKSDA head, Suharman, believed the sightings were not of Javan tigers but that of leopards. Leopards have spots. “Javan tigers were declared extinct by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the 1980s. Tigers have not been seen since the 1960s,” Suharman said.

He said he not received any official reports from the residents about Javan tiger sightings. However, should his side receive any official reports, the BKSDA would investigate the claims, he said. (evi)