Poser over tiger found dead in river

Experts: Animal is an excellent swimmer, unlikely it drowned

PETALING JAYA: The Malayan tiger found floating in a river in Kuala Krai, Kelantan is unlikely to have died from drowning, say conservationists.

While still awaiting the results of the post-mortem, experts say the Malayan tiger is known for its exceptional swimming abilities, making it unlikely for a healthy individual to succumb to drowning.

Dr Mark Rayan Darmaraj, country director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia Programme, noted that while the tiger appeared healthy externally, internal examinations could reveal the actual cause of death.

“The death of this tiger could be anything from disease, poisoning, a gunshot, an infected wound from a snare, or some other natural cause.

“And so, it is best to await the post-mortem results from the authorities to provide a definitive answer and not speculate,” he said in an interview.

His comments came after the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) confirmed that a tiger carcass was found floating in Sungai Pergau. A picture of it has gone viral on social media.

The carcass had been sent to the National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Sungkai, Perak, for an autopsy, Kelantan Perhilitan director Mohamad Hafid Rohani told Bernama on Friday.

So far, no sign of injuries from gunshots or snares were found on the dead beast.

On May 16, another adult tiger was found dead beside the Kuala Lumpur-Karak Expressway near Lentang in Bentong, believed to have been run over by a vehicle.

The Malayan tiger, said Darmaraj, is in a dire situation with fewer than 150 remaining in the wild based on the first National Tiger Survey conducted from 2015 to 2020.

Devastating loss: There are concerns for the Malayan tiger’s future if more isn’t done to protect them. — Picture courtesy of Sinar HarianDevastating loss: There are concerns for the Malayan tiger’s future if more isn’t done to protect them. — Picture courtesy of Sinar Harian

“Recognising the gravity of the situation, several laudable national initiatives to conserve tigers have been initiated by the government, particularly Perhilitan, in recent years to stem the decline of this majestic animal.

“However, the loss of even a single animal is a blow to the species due to the extremely low number of animals left in the wild, which are further scattered into smaller sub-populations,” he said.

Darmaraj added that the species also faced multiple threats, including poaching, habitat loss, depletion of prey species, retaliatory killing due to human-tiger conflict, and being hit by vehicles where roads bisect tiger habitats.

“All efforts need to be taken to ensure this species can persist in the wild over the long term,” he said.

Malaysian Nature Society president Vincent Chow also thinks the tiger in this case could not have drowned and believes that it was more likely poisoned.

“My guess is that the tiger was poisoned... unless the post-mortem can show proof of bullet holes, that it was injured, fell into the river and died,” he said, adding that from the picture, the carcass looked normal.

“The sad thing is tigers are still a target for poachers,” he said, calling for joint meetings between non-governmental groups and the government to tackle the issue.

“We need to look deeply into this issue... because I think the outlook for the tiger to survive another 10 years is going to be very slim,” he said.

Asked if the tiger could have succumbed to diseases like canine distemper before falling into the river, Chow said the carcass did not look emaciated.

“Until the post-mortem results come out, this is all just speculation, but then every tiger that dies is sad news for us,” he said, adding that such incidents would recur as long as there is human-wildlife conflict.

Chow said there should also be better networking between the wildlife authorities and villagers where the tigers had been spotted so there would be more two-way communication, adding that some areas, particularly in Kelantan, were very remote and hard to access.

“We should be more sensitive and caring to the remaining ones because ours is a different subspecies. Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” he said.

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