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Recent DNA tests raise hope about existence of creature thought to have been extinct for decades: 'There's still a possibility'

"What's most important is the next steps that we take in the future."

"What's most important is the next steps that we take in the future."

Photo Credit: iStock

A March study shows that an apex predator thought to be extinct since the 1980s may still be prowling the Indonesian island of Java.

The paper examined a single hair found following a potential sighting by five citizens in 2019, Mongabay reported. One of the witnesses, conservationist Ripi Yanuar Fajar, contacted Kalih Raksasewu, a researcher at the National Research and Innovation Agency, to report having seen a critically endangered Javan leopard or a Javan tiger.

In a visit to the area in South Sukabumi, West Java, nine days later, the group found a hair on a community plantation fence. They believed the being had jumped there and also discovered tiger-like footprints and claw marks.

"There's still a possibility that the Javan tiger is in the Sukabumi forest," Raksasewu said. "If it's coming down to the village or community plantation, it could be because its habitat has been disturbed. In 2019, when the hair was found, the Sukabumi region had been affected by drought for almost a year."

In an online discussion a week after the study was published, co-author Wirdateti Wirdateti said testing revealed the hair was a 97.8% match with the Javan tiger, Mongabay reported. It was 97.1% similar to the Sumatran tiger and 96.9% similar to the Bengal tiger.

Poaching and deforestation have all but killed off Javan and Sumatran tigers on the island, home to more than 150 million people in an area the size of North Carolina.

These human-induced tragedies are heartbreaking, to say the least. Habitat loss not only harms biodiversity, including these charismatic megafauna, but it also wreaks havoc on the environment in ways that cannot be undone.

Wildlife conservation ensures future generations can experience the natural world and aid the survival of critical ecosystems, which will only help build a safer future for humans too.

"Through this research, we have determined that the Javan tiger still exists in the wild," Wirdateti said, per Mongabay. "For this reason, follow-up field studies are needed, such as observations through camera traps, looking for droppings or footprints and scratches."

"What's most important is the next steps that we take in the future," Javan tiger expert Didik Raharyono said.

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