KUALA LUMPUR: The decision to strengthen measures to protect the Malayan tiger, as stated in the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) mid-term review on Sept 11, is good news, but worries over proposals for mining in protected areas remain, says the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
WCS Malaysia programme country director Mark Rayan Darmaraj pointed to the National Minerals Policy, which acts as a guide for mining activities in permanent forest reserves and environmentally sensitive areas.
He said it contradicts the need for the conservation of tigers and better protection for their habitats, even though it “appears to imply the importance of sustainability and will perhaps try to mitigate the impacts of mining”.
“The fact that mining activities inevitably include some form of forest clearance and degradation, increase the potential for water pollution and soil degradation, and have other secondary impacts such as the creation of more roads in previously inaccessible forested areas, which may facilitate poaching, is worrying,” Mark said.
However, he applauded the government for recognising the Malayan tiger’s precarious state and the need to act to preserve the species.
Sharing Mark’s concerns, Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam president Damien Thanam Divean urged the government to empower the wildlife and national parks department (Perhilitan) to object to any development activities in areas critical to the Malayan tiger and other protected species.
As Perhilitan is under the federal government, it has nearly zero say in mining and other development activities because land-related matters are handled by the state government.
“Whatever action the government is going to take will not be sufficient until the agency in charge of wildlife preservation and its protection and management is given the power to object to the destruction of habitats of wildlife,” said Damien.
The population of Malayan tigers has declined from 3,000 in the 1950s to fewer than 150 today.
“Protecting tigers has to go hand-in-hand with the protection of habitat, reproductive areas, and food sources,” he said.
Separately, Mark said it is heartening to note that the government is aiming to empower local communities to help in conservation initiatives.
“I think the framing of these issues and coming up with solutions that incorporate the local communities’ involvement is the right direction to take in the conservation of tigers,” he said.
WWF Malaysia tiger conservation programme lead Christopher Wong agreed that focusing on sustainable development goals at the local level and encouraging businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, to adopt eco-friendly practices is a good move.
“It is indicative of a well-rounded approach to conservation, showing that they understand the importance of both nature and economic growth,” he said.
He said it is also encouraging to know the government is committed to cracking down on wildlife crimes, expanding protected areas, and getting local communities involved in helping other endangered animals that share habitats with the Malayan tiger.