Research team: Malayan tiger a new subspecies

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 04 Nov 2004

By Lee Yuk Peng

MALACCA: For the zoological community, tigers in Malaysia are even more precious now. Contrary to previous belief, the local big cat does not belong to the panthera tigris corbetti (Indochinese tiger) species but a new subspecies.  

The discovery by a research team in the United States was announced at the South-East Asia Zoo Association conference held in Hong Kong in September. 

Mohd Nawayai Yasak, chairman of the Malaysian Association of Zoos, Parks and Aquaria (Mazpa) has since written to Stephen J. O’Brien, chief of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity under the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, United States which conducted the research, to propose the scientific name of the Malayan tigers as panthera tigris malayensis

Mohd Nawayai, who is also Zoo Melaka director, said the research team had proposed to name the Malayan tiger as panthera tigris jacksoni to recognise the contributions of Peter Jackson, a tiger conservationist. 

“I feel that the scientific name of the Malayan tigers should reflect its geographic location, as in the case with both the Sumatran and Bengal tigers which are found in Indonesia and India respectively. 

“The naming is important. More so for the tiger, which is our flagship species,” said Mohd Nawayai. 

The Malayan tigers are only found in peninsular Malaysia, he said.  

Mohd Nawayai said the US research team had visited various zoos in the country, including Zoo Melaka, one-and-a-half years ago to collect blood samples for DNA tests. 

“Their research finding confirms our belief that our tigers are not subspecies of the Indochinese tiger,” he said. 

O’Brien, who replied to Mohd Nawayai on Oct 19, said the research team agreed to using the Malayan tiger as a common name to give Malaysia a direct connection to the conservation and a Latin name meant to honour Jackson's life-long conservation effort.  

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