Death of a Bali Tiger
The Bali tiger Panthera tigris balica
was the smallest of the recognized eight subspecies of tiger. The last
known physical evidence was one shot in 1937, but reports of sightings
were received during the 1940s. No photographs of live Bali tigers
appear to exist, only some strung on poles after being shot. The
following account of a killing (Vojnich 1913) was reproduced in a paper
by Balzas Buzas and Balzas Farkas [Department of Zoology, Hungarian
Natural History Museum, Baross u. 13, H-1088 Budapest, Hungary (1997)]
on a skull from Tanjung or Gunung Gondol, northwestern Bali, in the
Department of Zoology, Hungarian Natural History Museum (HNHM
"In the western part of Bali Island, along the northern shore, in the
mountains of Goendoel, we discovered tiger footprints. Munaut set up two
traps along the trails in use (the tiger, like other big game, readily
employs the trails of humans). Goats served as bait. On 2 November,
while collecting twigs to be used for constructing a fence around the
traps, the carcass of a freshly killed kijang (Muntiacus muntjac)
was encountered by the people. The trap was set in front of the kijang,
in a thicket. Munaut was almost certain that the tiger would be caught
in another day. I was much less convinced, as the many human tracks
could have warned the tiger. But no - it came to feed on the
slightly smelly joint, and the trap caught one of its forelegs, just
below the wrist.
"When we arrived at the site on the morning of 3 November after about
an hour’s walk, and took a few steps from the coast into the
thicket, we immediately heard the tiger’s roar. Then we continued
along with Munaut and a sharp-eyed native hunter towards the trap, or
rather approached slowly and carefully. When we came near it, and I
could not figure out where the tiger that I intended to shoot in the
head actually was… I definitely enjoyed the feeling of being so
close to danger, but as soon as I came to see the beautiful animal
wriggling in impotent rage with a huge piece of iron in its leg, I felt
sorry for it.
"I did not have a good shot, but at the coaxing of the native hunter
that I shoot, I aimed at the head of the roaring animal. The tiger
lowered its head slightly at the moment of the shot and the right barrel
did not point to its forehead, but rather lower, and the bullet
destroyed the nasal bone. The tiger roared and jumped a few steps aside.
Because of the dense vegetation, I had to clear the place, and shot the
tiger in the forehead with the left barrel from about 15 meters. It
collapsed immediately like an apoplectic.
"As I later found out, three buck-shots penetrated the frontal bone,
a fourth destroyed the eye, and all four reached the brain. Does one
need a better shot than this? My male tiger is thus a perfect example of
the Dutch [East] Indian species. Its tail is shorter than that of the
According to Vojnich (1913), an identical method of immobilizing and
killing was customarily employed by the Surabayan rifle-maker E. Munaut,
who had already brought down over 20 Bali tigers at that time. This
hunter caught his tigers with steel traps weighing 16-18 kg, and
subsequently gunned the handicapped animals in the head from a distance
of 16-20 m.
Although shot in 1911, our specimen was not actually catalogued until
1947. Therefore, the holotype might have reached the Senckenberg Museum
considerably earlier (cf. Schwarz 1913).
- Buzas, B. and Farkas, B. 1997. An additional skull of the Bali
tiger, Panthera tigris balica (Schwarz) in the Hungarian Natural
History Museum. Miscellanea Zoologica Hungarica Vol 11 pp:
- Schwarz, E. 1913. Der Bali Tiger Ber. Senckenb. Naturf.
Ges. 44: 70-73.
- Vojnich, G. 1913: A Kelet-Indiai Szigetcsoporton [in the East
Indian Archipelago]. Singer & Wolfner, Budapest, 264 pp.