Get boots on the ground quickly to save tigers, says expert

WWF Malaysia says poaching is the biggest threat to the survival of the Malayan tiger.

PETALING JAYA: A wildlife conservation expert has called for speed in the deployment of enforcers against the poaching of tigers.

Mark Rayan Darmaraj, WWF Malaysia’s lead tiger researcher, told FMT he welcomed the police’s recent announcement that it would deploy 500 personnel from its Senoi Praaq unit to combat poachers, but he said the urgency of the situation required their deployment as soon as possible.

“There are certainly efforts made to get boots on the ground but this needs to be hastened,” he said, adding that efforts to gather intelligence on syndicates needed to be stepped up as well so that the poaching and the trade chain could be broken.

He said an increased enforcement presence in forests would be able to prevent tiger poaching and suggested that the relevant agencies pool their resources if having permanent personnel required too much funding.

“If funds are only trickling, then it would be wise to form smaller strike forces or rapid response teams to act on information given by the public or NGOs on the ground.”

Darmaraj spoke of poaching as being the biggest threat to the Malayan tiger’s survival.

He said Indochinese nationals were the main culprits behind the snaring and poaching of tigers in the Belum-Temenggor forest reserve.

Their activities had led to a sharp drop in tiger numbers on the peninsula, he added.

Earlier this month, Perak park authorities estimated that only 23 tigers remained in the Royal Belum and Temenggor forest reserves. Seven years ago, it was estimated that there were 60 tigers in the two reserves.

“Ten years ago, we found only isolated incidents of snaring, but in the past five years alone, our teams have found more than 250 active snares and hundreds of old ones in Belum-Temengor,” Darmaraj said.

“Many more remain undetected as we cannot patrol the entire forest complex intensively.”

He said the snaring of tigers was happening not only in Belum-Temenggor, but throughout the peninsula.

He urged Putrajaya to emulate India and Nepal by forming a national tiger committee empowered to make executive decisions on policies, allocation of resources, enforcement and land management.

The Indian government announced recently that its wild tiger population had increased by 30% in the past four years. Nepal has seen its tiger numbers double in 2018, raising hopes for the survival of the endangered species.

“This was only possible due to the prioritising of tiger conservation efforts through a national committee or a similar convening body and significant involvement of the highest political will in their respective countries,” Darmaraj said.

He said it would take time for conservation efforts to bear fruit, noting that Nepal’s conservation committee was formed in 2010 and the Indian authority in 2005.

“We hope that the Malayan Tiger Pledge initiated by WWF-Malaysia will provide a platform for the public to make a call to action on forming a national tiger committee that will garner the highest political will as exemplified in India and Nepal,” he added.