The Bali Tiger

Bali is a decievingly lush and tropical island. While tourists may flock here and marvel at the green rice paddies, tall trees and mischievious monkeys, they probably wouldn’t expect Bali to be so barren and biodiversity-challenge.

Many, many, years ago during the last ice age Bali was connected to Java by a land bridge. This allowed for wildlife to move freely down to Bali and is why there was once such an incredible amount of biodiversity found on this island (not to mention a population of early humans, but that is for another day). Then after the ice age the land bridge was covered by rising seas and Bali was islolated. Out of this isolation a sub-species of tiger evolved.

The Bali tiger was the smallest of all tiger sub-species reaching only about 220 pounds. To put it in perspective the largest sub-species of tiger, the Siberian tiger, can weigh over 700 pounds.

Alfred Russel Wallace noted that tigers occured from mainland Asia down to the island of Bali, but no further. On the next island south, Lombok, there are cockatoos and honeyeaters and other species found no further north, but none of the iconic mega-fauna found south on islands like Bali and Java. This helped him to determine the location of, now named in honor of the naturalist, Wallace line.

But as the population on Bali grew, more and more forest was cut down to grow rice or to build homes. Slowly the population of the Bali tiger diminished.

It is likely that there was never a large population Bali tiger as the island is only just over 2,000 square miles, but with hunting pressure growing as the tigers were seen as either a threat by the Balinese or as a trophy by the Dutch who laid claim to the island in mid-19th century, the Bali tiger was pushed into extinction in the mid 1940’s.

Bali tigers were popular targets in trophy hunting by Dutch colonists

The Bali tiger was distinguishable from its Javan cousins by its short, dense, fur with fewer and darker stripes. There is very little left from the reign of the Bali tiger and only 8 skulls and 5 skins remain preserved.

The last well documented tiger killed was in September of 1937 where an adult tigeress was shot in West Bali.

Unfortunately this is not a unique occurance. Because of the large human population on the island of Bali many of the endemic species have gone extinct. Today there are no wild cats left on Bali and only one species of monkey.

Islands can be viewed as microcosms for conservation in the greater world. The wildlife that once flourished here was pushed out by an increasingly anthropogenic landscape, and with no where left to go, died out.

Ways to help counteract the rampant extinction is to be conscious of the types of materials you use and try to avoid rainforest woods like mahogany, Brazilian walnut or cherry, and even inexpensive woods like lauan which are used frequently for plywood. Choosing to use recylced paper and wood can make an incredible difference to species who need those trees to survive.

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