FMT LETTER: From Wong Pui May, via e-mail
The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) welcomes the Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia’s (Perhilitan) plan to reactivate joint patrols with the Malaysian Armed Forces to combat poaching and other illegal activities.
Taman Negara National Park is the largest protected area in Malaysia and a decade ago, the park supported the largest, scientifically estimated, tiger population in Southeast Asia with 70 to 112 tigers. This was when the park was regularly patrolled by dedicated patrol teams and in addition, Perhilitan and the Army annually patrolled the park and arrested poachers.
However, as the number of visitors grew, the attention and resources have shifted from protection to tourism. Consequently, the result of recent research conducted in western Taman Negara found that the tiger population has drastically declined over the past decade.
Poaching is currently the most devastating threat to the survival of tigers and the most effective way to combat poaching is by increasing the boots on the ground. The current number of park staff is insufficient to effectively protect the park.
Furthermore, the persistent presence of foreign poachers in the park is most disturbing and combating the armed poachers requires specially trained personnel.
The rich biodiversity of Malaysia is our national heritage. In this, we are encouraged to note that the Army will assist Perhilitan in safeguarding the national jewels in the protected area. We fervently hope that these joint patrols will continue regularly in the near future. We also urge the government to increase Perhilitan’s manpower and resources in Taman Negara.
We eagerly await the timely translation of the planned joint patrols into action, which will allow the Taman Negara tiger population to recover and take us closer to the national target of having 1,000 wild tigers by the year 2020, as set out by the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan.
The writer is MYCAT communications officer