Javan tiger sighted again? Nah, it’s a leopard


Earlier this month, a park ranger at the Ujung Kulon National Park reported seeing a Javan tiger in Ujung Kulon National Park.
The press release included this photo:


The Javan tiger, Panthera tigris sondaica, was a small subspecies of tiger endemic to Java. By the 20th century, hunting and habitat destruction devastated Javan tiger populations. It was last seen in the 1970′s, and declared extinct in 1994. A few unofficial reports of Javan tigers have surfaced since, but none have been verified. Complicating matters is the presence of the Javan leopard, Panthera pardus melas, in the same location.

Let’s take a look at the photo, shall we?


When compared to a leopard [source] and a Sumatran tiger [source], it’s clearly a lot more like the leopard. The head is smaller and lacks the “fluffiness” of a tiger’s head. The body isn’t as deep as many tigers’. The tail is longer and more curved than that of a tiger, closer to that of the leopard. Even at that quality, the stripes of a tiger should be clear, and sharpening the image of the Javan cat makes it look more spotted. Javan leopards are known to inhabit Ujung Kulon National Park. And in motion, as noted by Wulan Pusparini of the Wildlife Conservation Society, it looks more like a leopard.


Even when trashed, the tiger still looks clearer than the cat in the photograph

In conclusion, instead of an extinct Javan tiger, this is a misidentified Javan leopard. This is still cool, though – Javan leopards are critically endangered, and seeing one is quite rare and exciting.