Asiatic Cheetah (Extinct 2015)
This was never a very populous cat species. Said to have almost gone extinct about 10,000 years ago, and jumped back to a stable population; it suffered local extinction in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan by the 1970’s due to hunting and destruction of habitat.
Mughal Emperors used them for hunting antelope and deer and they were highly prized in the menageries. During colonial and post-independence Asia, they were hunted down further. There are said to be a few left in Iran but live sightings have not occurred since 1996.
Barbary Lion (Extinct 1942)
The largest of the lions, this species was over hunted ever since Roman times. They look imposing and were almost exclusively used in the roman coliseums. This famous lion on the left was called Sultan and was kept in the New York Zoo. In legend, this is also said to be the Nemean Lion that Hercules is said to have battled.
These lions were hunted down and taken into various rulers menageries to be kept as symbols of royal power and favor. The King of Morocco still has a private menagerie(although not of Barbary Lions) while the Emperor Haile Selassei, the Lion of Judah also used to maintain a royal menagerie too.
They seem to have gone extinct in the wild in the 1940’s although their DNA is observed in some captive bred lions. Maybe we can bring them back.
Cape Lion (Extinct 1870’s)
These were magnificent black-maned beasts who made excellent trophies(unfortunately) and were very quickly hunted down by Europeans settlers to extinction. They were said to be slightly smaller than their Barbary cousins but more heavy set than the sub-saharan species.
They roamed around the area of the Cape town and lived off the antelopes, zebra and buffaloes.
Some captive descendants with remarkable DNA similarities were discovered at the Novosibirsk Zoo but they are not true descendants of this sub-species. Alas! This species is also lost to us forever now.
Sardinian Lynx (Extinct 1967)
This sub-species of the European Lynx lived on an island and like all such species stuck in small habitats went extinct quickly. The last wild spotting was in the early 20th century. They were officially declared extinct in 1908.
The European lynx had 10 sub-species, of which only five survive and all are quite threatened in their native habitats.
Zanzibar Leopard (Extinct 1996)
This animal lived in the Zanzibar Archipelago on the isle of Unguja. Predictably, farming and livestock pressure drove it to extinction. There was also a local belief that these animals are sent by witches, which did not help at all.
This sub-species had been localized on the island after the last ice age and had lost some of its mainland cousin’s rosettes which had become spots instead. It had also become smaller due the common phenomenon called island dwarfing, which states that when mainland animals colonize islands, small species tend to evolve larger bodies, and large species tend to evolve smaller bodies.
Formosan Clouded Leopard (Extinct 1983)
This creature was a dwarf version of it’s mainland cousins measuring up to half the size or weighing in at about 11 Kgs. and 50 inches in length for males. Females would have been smaller in size.
In 2012, after an intense 13 year effort to find any signs of this rare creature, the Taiwanese government announced that the species is probably extinct in the wilds of the Tawu Mountain Nature Reserve. There was a thriving population on the islands until the late nineteenth century but things went downhill because of deforestation due to logging. There is talk of re-introducing mainland clouded leopards here but the original is most certainly lost.
Bali Tiger (Extinct 1937)
Another island species was driven to extinction by Victorian hunters and sportsmen. The last animal was killed in 1937 but there could have been remnants of the populations as late as after World War II.
This tiger was the smallest of the eight tiger species; rather comparable with the cougar and leopards in size. The males were between 90 to 100 kg (198-221 pounds) and they were about 220 cm (7.2 feet or 86.6 inches) in length from tip of the tail to nose. Females weighed 65 to 80 kg (142-175 pounds) and were 195-200 cm (6.4-6.6 feet, 76.8-78.7 inches) long.
Javan Tiger (Extinct 1979)
Just across from the Bali Tiger, lived another sub-species called the Javan tiger. It was considered that they had evolved separately either after the last ice age when water separated the two islands.
This tiger species was slightly bigger than it’s Bali cousin due to the availability of larger prey on this island. The deforestation, killing of prey species, particularly Rusa Deer caused this potentially small population to fragment and then disappear by the late 1970’s.
There was a flutter of excitement when pug marks were observed after the Mount Merapi volcano burst in 2010 but later examinations did not reveal any tigers present.
Caspian Tiger (Extinct 1970)
This species had a huge geographical range, from the Xinjiang China to Georgia via Kazakhstan and Iran. This tiger was very large, the males weighing upto 100 Kgs. and measuring 10 feet in length. This is almost comparable to the largest of the cat, the Siberian tiger.
Like other sub-species, they were hunted down as vermin in the Russian republics and their preferred prey, wild pigs were exterminated across the entire habitat range. They were officially gone by the late 1970’s.
There are nebulous plans to re-introduce the Amur tiger, closest in genes to this species in the Caspian habitats again. Let’s hope they can bear fruit!
North African Serval (Extinct 1970)
Although serval as a species are fairly numerous and are not listed as threatened species, however one sub-species has been extinct for the last few decades.
These are small cats, measuring about 54–62 cm (21–24 in) at the shoulder and weighing in at 9–18 kg (20–40 lb). It has a small head, large ears(can listen to rodents slithering in the undergrowth), a golden-yellow to buff coat spotted and striped with black, and a short, black-tipped tail. The serval has the longest legs of any cat relative to its body size because they live in grasslands and need to stand tall to see their prey.
Among all the cats we have listed, habitat loss and hunting are a recurring theme. While large populations of humans will inevitably lead to conflicts with large carnivora, we are living through an unprecedented phase of extinction and we need to figure out how to keep the dwindling wild population at least alive. For this, lots of organizations are pitching in and helping with breeding or re-settling efforts. Please donate to the following and help us keep our wild feline populations alive.