Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tigers of Korea and Sumatra

Wandering through the world of the tiger, the most magnificent cat that ever lived....

The tiger is believed extinct on the Korean peninsula, although there are occasional sighting reports.  Now Korean scientists, while speaking of their nation's tiger in the past tense, report they have identified its proper classification and affiliation. Studies from tiger remains up to a century old indicate the Korean specimens were of the same subspecies as the Amur tiger, which is still hanging on (about 400 survive in the wild)  in eastern Russia.  Professor Lee Hang takes heart in this: "The fact that the Amur tiger and the Korean tiger are of the same bloodline means the Korean tiger is still alive."
There was an article linked to on FaceBook recently saying a Javan tiger had been caught in a camera trap, but I can't locate it now, and it was likely old or incorrect: that would have been worldwide news, as the Javan tiger is widely considered to have joined the Bali and Caspian tigers in the darkness of extinction in the 20th century. The Sumatran tiger isn't doing much better.  it exists, but under extremely precarious conditions. So, as I wrote a few days ago, the global tiger population is up a bit, with some bright spots for subspecies like the Bengal tiger, but other populations (the aforementioned Amur, for example, and the South China tiger as well as the Sumatran) are still in deep trouble.
Everyone says William Blake's poem about the tiger was really about the Industrial Revolution or something, and Blake was a mystic who often melded themes, but has there ever been a better description? "Tiger, tiger burning bright / in the forests of the night / what immortal hand or eye / could frame thy fearful symmetry?" 

This was the Caspian tiger, photographed on exhibit in Berlin in 1899.

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