An artistic bid to save Malayan tiger

A Maybank exhibition staff member sporting tiger face-painting seen with Azaikmal‘s life-like painting, titles ‘The Watcher‘. — Photos: P. NATHAN/ The Star

THE pride of our nation and national animal, the Malayan tiger, is on the brink of extinction.

We see it on the Malaysian coat of arms, and its stripes on our national team’s jerseys.

What we may not know is the dramatic decline in Malayan tigers from an estimated 3,000 during colonial times to a mere 250 to 340 tigers now.

In an effort to reverse the fate of the tigers, Maybank Foundation launched the Tiger Art Exhibition on July 25 in conjunction with Global Tiger Day.

The exhibition featured images from photo traps by WWF Malaysia, as well as 15 charcoal and oil paintings of tigers by Azaikmal Ahmad Rashid, a local artist from Johor.

Maybank Foundation chief executive officer Shahril Azuar Jimin said that he heard of Azaikmal from a friend who shared a Facebook post featuring photos of the artist’s artwork of tigers.

Shahril said all the artworks were for sale and all proceeds would go towards their efforts in tiger conservation in the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex under the Maybank Foundation and WWF-Malaysia Tiger Conservation fund.

WWF Malaysia reported there were over 334 signs of poaching recorded in the Belum-Temengor area between 2014 and 2015.

“For the first time in a century, the number of tigers are increasing globally, but there is still a decline in South-East Asia as tigers face immense threats like poaching and habitat loss,” said WWF Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma.

Some of the tiger-themed art pieces that were on display at Balai Seni Maybank.
Some of the tiger-themed art pieces that were on display at Balai Seni Maybank.

“As forests in Laos, Cambodia and China are being emptied of wild tigers, syndicates are actually moving into our forests to extract precious resources such as wood and wildlife.

“If the current trend prevails across South-East Asia, there is a high chance of losing our tigers in the next 10 years,” he warned.

Despite this bleak scenario, Dionysius believed there was still a chance of saving our Malayan tigers.

He said WWF Malaysia was currently conducting scientific monitoring on Malayan tigers, looking at forest connectivity issues, monitoring land use changes, and raising awareness in the community.

“We are grateful for Maybank in funding our work through the exhibition,” said Dr Dionysius.

Azaikmal expressed his joy in being part of the efforts to protect Malayan tigers as he grew up with the knowledge of tigers in Johor.

Some of the artist’s paintings show the kinder side of Malayan tigers, with a tigress caring for a cub in “Family”, and two cubs being playful in “Playtime”.

The UiTM fine art graduate’s charcoal paintings are also a wonder to look at, with the gentle strokes of black forming the stripes and fur of the creature.

The semi-realist oil paintings stand out with their bright colours and bold strokes.

Azaikmal’s artworks will be brought to the Global Tiger Day carnival at Bulatan Amanjaya, Ipoh today to celebrate and raise awareness about Global Tiger Day.

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