KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): The fate of the Malayan tiger hangs in the balance as poaching continues even in the tiger priority site of Belum-Temengor forest reserve, along with the decline in the number of other wildlife that the tiger relies on for food.
In an interview with Bernama, WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Malaysia, Tiger Landscape Lead Dr Mark Rayan Darmaraj said the tiger population in the country today has sadly declined to fewer than 200.
Poaching activities, driven by high demand for the tiger body parts for traditional Chinese medicine and other purposes, have drawn hunters from as far as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia into the country.
They have boldly set up thousands of traps such as wire snares deep in the jungle, trapping both tigers and other wild animals.
"The depletion of other wild animals in the forests such as deer and wild boar – which are considered as the tiger's natural food source – is not only caused by poachers but also by the locals who hunt these animals for sport. This is considered as indirect poaching, as it affects the tiger's reproduction rate in the wild.
"Depending on how large the prey is, for example, a barking deer could just serve as a snack for a tiger, so it needs to hunt more frequently and requires more energy. A deer would be a perfect meal for a tiger that can last up to 10 days before it goes hunting again, " he said.
According to Mark, tigers, being territorial animals, roam around large parts of the deep jungle looking for food or a mate, but without anything to hunt for food they have nothing to eat.
Hence, they would not have enough energy to survive or reproduce resulting in the population declining even further.
In one of the many actions taken to save the big cats, WWF Malaysia has established patrol teams consisting of indigenous people in areas of Belum Temenggor where the teams conduct daily patrols, retrieve snares left by poachers and also report back to WWF for possible poaching game areas.
"We have teams conducting daily patrols but the manpower is still not enough as there are a lot more areas of the jungle that need to be covered.
"These areas are very secluded and difficult to reach, so we need a specialised force equipped with tactical and jungle survival skills to patrol these parts of the forest, " he said.
Apart from that, the tiger conservationist expressed excitement on recent news that the police would be assisting the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) rangers in carrying out patrols deep in the jungles.
The police have agreed to deploy two General Operations Force (GOF) battalions from Senoi Praaq to conduct patrols in identified forest areas to track down poachers, especially those hunting the Malayan tiger.
"I believe with the additional help from the police we would be able to make a more significant impact to save our beloved tigers, " he added.
Since 2014 the WWF patrol teams have removed around 1, 400 snares and released 269 different animals caught in those traps.
Mark also commended the Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar for his efforts in championing Malayan Tiger conservation since he took office, which is a positive turnover for the dying species in a while.
The fate of tigers in the country came to the fore recently following the case of a Malayan tiger found roaming in Kampung Besul, Bukit Besi in Dungun, Terengganu.
The tiger was caught by Perhilitan but eventually succumbed to canine distemper virus infection despite attempts to treat the animal. – Bernama