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Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

Sad Tale of the Demise of the Bali Tiger Eliminated from the Islandís Jungles in 1937.

(8/15/2011) A sad footnote in the history of mankind’s poor stewardship of the planet earth will record that on Monday, September 27, 1937, the last Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica) was shot at Sumbar Kimia in Western Bali.

Little details are known on the circumstances surrounding the shooting, except that the animal was a female, with some experts claiming that perhaps a few and final members of the Bali subspecies of Tigers may have survived as late as  the 1940s and 1950s when the last animal died out due to a diminished gene pool and a dwindling natural habitat.

The Bali Tiger was the smallest subspecies of tigers, the largest being the majestic Siberian tigers of North Asia. The Bali variant was also know for it dark orange pelt.

At one time, Indonesia was home to three separate populations of tigers residing in Bali, Java and Sumatra. The tigers of Bali and Java are now completely extinct. And, ironically, the Sumatran tigers found in the wild are a dwindling sub-sector of a much large captive population of Sumatran tigers now residing almost exclusively in zoos around the world.

The Bali tiger was known by the local name of “samong” and typically were not hunted by the Balinese who held the animal in great awe, believing the animals' whiskers could cure illness or be used as an effective poison.

Although small by comparison with other tigers, the Bali cats were nonetheless formidable. The males weighed between 90-100 kilograms, while the more diminutive females averaged between 65-85 kilograms. The size of the Bali tigers is something of an evolutionary anomaly with the size of tigers subspecies normally growing larger the more removed they are from the Equator. The Bali cats' smaller size, deep orange color, and fewer stripes as compared to the Javanese and Sumatra variants suggest that the Bali grouping may have developed in prolonged isolation, enjoying  an evolutionary advantage that bestowed a selective advantage for smallness in the eco-system of a geographically and resource-limited island.

Beritabali.com retells how rich “safari tourists” would use serrated steel traps bated with a live goats or a deer to entrap Bali tigers. Once the tiger was ensnarled in the jaws of the trap, the hunters would then dispatch the animal with a gun shot delivered at close range.