KUALA LUMPUR: The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) wants RM18mil from the Government to fund the first national survey of the country’s tiger population.
Wildlife officer (tiger unit) Hazril Rafhan Abdul Halim, 36, said the survey would be the most comprehensive ever, covering 20 plots of 1,000sq km each, including jungles outside gazetted conservation areas.
Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, Perhilitan did a smaller survey of three major tiger habitats – Taman Negeri DiRaja Belum in Perak, Taman Negara in Pahang and Taman Negara Endau Rompin in Labis, Johor.
That exercise cost RM3.2mil and the resulting 2014 report estimated that there were between 250 and 340 tigers there.
This cast doubts over whether the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan could have 1,000 Malayan tigers in the wild by 2020.
However, the survey was not representative of the whole peninsula.
Since then, Perhilitan has detected another 14 tigers in national parks in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.
“I believe there are more tigers out there,” said Hazril Rafhan, who has worked on tiger projects since 2007.
He said Malaysia still had adequate jungle cover for 1,000 tigers, although the question was whether the animals still roamed there.
Hazril Rafhan said a major portion of the RM18mil would go towards the logistics of charting 20,000sq km of forest, funding for non-governmental organisations to provide extra manpower for the mammoth task and to buy camera traps.
Camera traps are videocameras that start recording whenever an animal triggers an infrared motion detector.
Perhilitan will need about 200 such cameras for each plot. One camera costs between RM2,000 and RM3,000.
Its biodiversity conservation director Salman Saaban said camera traps were highly effective and the footage allowed researchers to identify tigers based on their stripes which were unique, like fingerprints.