@Green January/February 2022 - Page 28

Malayan Tigers risk going extinct
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COVER STORY

@ Forest | January-February , 2022
BY FATIHAH MANAF

THE MALAYAN TIGER , known by its scientific name Panthera Tigris Jacksoni , is Malaysia ’ s national symbol and WWF-Malaysia ’ s priority conservation target .

Despite being protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 ( Act 716 ) as a Totally Protected Species , the species continues to suffer a population decline . Currently , there are less than 200 Malayan tigers in Malaysia ’ s forests .
According to Prime Minister Dato ’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob , the iconic species would go extinct if immediate actions were not taken to tackle the issue . While chairing the first meeting of the National Conservation Task Force ( MyTTF ), he expressed the government ’ s seriousness in addressing the problem .
The meeting approved the Strategic Actions for Harimau Malaya Conservation for 10 years beginning 2022 , with six approaches being implemented , including boots on the ground joint operations . The operations would involve the Department of Wildlife and National Parks ( Perhilitan ), Royal Malaysia Police ( PDRM ), Malaysian Armed Forces ( MAF ), and the Orang Asli community .
“ More concerning is the possibility that this country ’ s iconic species will be extinct forever ,” said Ismail , adding that the decline of the species was due to the loss of habitat and the decrease of its food sources , resulting from hunting , illegal trading of animals , land-use changes and the spread of canine distemper virus .
MyTFF ’ s commitment
He revealed that MyTFF agreed to protect and strengthen the species ’ habitat through sustainable land use management and stop encroachment and illegal hunting activities . It also decided to use innovative financial instruments to supplement the existing Ecological Fiscal Transfer for Biodiversity Conservation financial incentive .
The meeting also agreed to implement the Harimau Malaya habitat accreditation scheme , apart from pushing the Save Harimau Malaya campaigns to raise awareness and engage strategic partners .
“ Another action agreed to is to expand forest cover in Peninsular Malaysia from 43.41 per cent currently to 50 per cent by 2040 , in line with the Fourth National Physical Plan ,” explained Ismail .
He said the meeting also called for empowering effective governance by establishing the Harimau Malaya Conservation Unit under Perhilitan , Wildlife Crimes Bureau under PDRM and strengthening the National Wildlife Forensics Laboratory as a centre of excellence for ex-situ conservation of Harimau Malaya .
He stated that efforts to safeguard the Malayan tiger had already begun . It included the amendments to the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 , passed by Parliament on Dec 21 last year , aiming to offer more effective enforcement .
Under the amendments , the maximum fine for perpetrators of wildlife crime was increased from RM500,000 to RM1 million . The maximum jail term was also increased from 10 years to 15 years .
“ Aside from these , there are new provisions for action to be taken against those who advertise the sale of wildlife online ,” he said .
Must address Human-Tiger Conflict
Recently , the country witnessed a tragic incident involving a 59-year-old

Protecting our

national symbol

Malayan Tigers risk going extinct
Dato ’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob
Sophia Lim
Tiger spotted outside Sekolah Kebangsaan ( SK ) Balar , near Gua Musang , Kelantan .
Orang Asli villager , Anek Along , who was attacked and killed by a tiger in Kampung Sau , Gua Musang . The Kelantan Perhilitan rangers then shot the tiger to prevent it from attacking them .
According to Sophia Lim , the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of WWF-Malaysia , human-tiger conflict ( HTC ) incidents were not uncommon in tiger range countries . WWF-Malaysia expressed their concern for the safety of the people and urged authorities to take the best and necessary practices to avoid further casualty , be they men or beasts .
“ HTC occurs when a wild tiger interacts with humans , their animals or their livestock and this results in an injury or death to a human , livestock or tiger . In Peninsular Malaysia , our forests are home to less than 200 tigers . Yet , a few from this already dwindling population have ventured out of the forest , closer to human settlements in recent months .
“ With increased incidents , there is a real urgency to find a holistic way to address and manage HTC . To do this , we must understand the nature of the tiger , the possible causes leading to HTC and expedite necessary solutions ,” she said .
Need immediate actions and solutions
Lim shared that individual tigers needed a large territory , and the size of their territory was primarily determined by prey availability . Tigers face continuous pressures from poaching , retaliatory killings and habitat loss across their range .
“ They are forced to compete for space with dense and often growing human populations . Tigers are by nature solitary unless they are courting or a mother with young cubs . Preferring to shy away from humans , the tiger hunts alone by ambush , waiting for lone , unsuspecting prey . When threatened or already injured , a tiger may exhibit more aggression , and its natural behaviour is to defend and save itself ,” wrote Lim .
She said the solution was to minimise contact between wild tigers and humans ; however , this became a challenge as competition for space and habitat increased .
“ When we stop threatening the resources required for a self-sustaining ecosystem , the coexistence between humans and wildlife can be better managed . So , as we work towards increasing our wild tiger numbers , we also need to look at effectively managing HTC , for the safety of the communities that live close to the forest as well as the conservation of the Malayan tiger .”
Not a threat to humans if left alone
A tiger was also spotted roaming outside the fence of a school , SK Balar , near Gua Musang . The photo of its sighting went viral online .
The Malaysian Animal association posted a statement on Facebook to address the situation , saying : “ Wild animals do not appear during the day unless they feel threatened , starved , or deprived of food sources and habitats . “ This proves that our country is undergoing severe habitat destruction , even leading to the expulsion of wildlife from its habitat . Something needs to be done . Save our country ’ s forest ! Save wildlife ’ s habitat ! Stop logging !”
There ’ s also a rise in public perception that Malayan tigers would attack men when they came into conflict with one another .
However , the Director of Kelantan Perhilitan , Mohamad Hafid Rohani , refuted the statement .
He stressed that attacking humans was not part of their nature as the species would not go near humans and would run away when conflicted or smelled them . He explained that the tigers would only be aggressive when humans threatened them . It included when they were being hunted or lost their food sources and natural habitat .
“ They will not attack if they are not disturbed or threatened ,” he added . — @ Forest