Poachers, limited prey push Malayan tiger to brink of extinction

WWF Malaysia says even hunters from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia have been targeting the Malayan tiger. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malayan tiger population in the country has declined to fewer than 200 as poaching continues even in the tiger priority site of the Belum-Temengor forest reserve.

WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Malaysia said poaching activities, driven by high demand for tiger body parts for traditional Chinese medicine and other uses, have even drawn hunters from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

These poachers have set up thousands of snares, trapping both tigers and other wild animals, WWF Malaysia’s Tiger Landscape Lead Dr Mark Rayan Darmaraj said.

“The depletion of other wild animals such as deer and wild boar, which are considered the tiger’s natural food source, is not only caused by poachers but also by locals who hunt these animals for sport.

“This is considered indirect poaching, as it affects the tiger’s reproduction rate in the wild.” he told Bernama.

Mark said tigers, being territorial, roam the jungle looking for food or a mate, but without anything to hunt for food, they have nothing to eat.

Hence, they would not have enough energy to survive or reproduce, resulting in the population declining even further.

In one of the many initiatives taken to save the big cats, WWF Malaysia established patrol teams of indigenous people in Belum Temenggor to conduct daily patrols, retrieve snares and report possible poaching areas.

“We have teams conducting daily patrols but the manpower is not enough as there are a lot more areas of the jungle that need to be covered.

“These areas are secluded and challenging to reach, so we need a specialised force equipped with tactical and jungle survival skills,” he said.

Mark was heartened by recent news that the police would be assisting Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) rangers in carrying out patrols deep in the jungles.

The police have agreed to deploy two General Operations Force (GOF) battalions from Senoi Praaq to conduct patrols in identified forest areas to track down poachers, especially those hunting the Malayan tiger.

“I believe with the additional help from the police, we would be able to make a more significant impact to save our beloved tigers,” he said.

Since 2014, the WWF patrol teams have removed about 1,400 snares and released 269 different trapped animals.

Mark also commended Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar for his efforts in championing conservation of the Malayan tiger since he took office.

Recently, Malayan tigers were found roaming Kampung Besul at Bukit Besi in Dungun, Terengganu. Perhilitan caught one of them but it died from canine distemper virus infection.