THE YEAR has not started well for our tigers. Barely two months into the new year, we have already lost six tigers in the wild, including two cubs.
In the latest incident just last Sunday, a tiger was caught in a snare meant for wild boar near an orang asli village in Tapah, injuring its right front paw.
Perak Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Rozidan Mohd Yassin said the male tiger's paw was swollen, but the injury thankfully wasn't serious.
However, although the tiger remained healthy, he said that it was behaving aggressively due to its new surroundings at the Sungkai National Wildlife Rescue Centre.
According to Perhilitan, the tiger is too dangerous to be released back into the wild following its encounter with humans.
So the poor tiger will to be confined to a cage for the rest of its life - due to the actions of humans who set the snare.
Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia director Dr Melvin Gumal said that hunters or poachers would set snares to trap animals, as it is easier than hunting animals individually.
Snares are typically made from wire or cord in a noose, attached to a tree. It only requires a slight touch to be triggered.
"Animals suffer horribly as snares can be left unchecked for several days on end," Dr Melvin told The Star.
"Sometimes we come across animals that fight to get out of snares and there are marks ripped across the tree bark.
"And there are times when animals die and their carcasses are found left on the snares," he said.
Dr Melvin said that snares are "non-discriminatory", meaning that any animal, including endangered animals like tigers, can get caught in the trap.
"The noose does not loosen. Animals that are caught, even large threatened species like tigers, cannot get out," he said.
He said the only way to free the animal is have it tranquillised and then remove the noose manually.
Setting snares are illegal. Those found having a snare can be fined RM100,000, jailed three years or both.
Those found guilty of laying the trap can be fined between RM50,000 and RM100,000, and jailed two years.
Local conservationist Wong Pui May said snare traps are "undeniably cruel and cause a lot of harm".
She said that some parties feel that the orang asli are being victimised by Perhilitan or conservation groups for setting snares, but the issue is that wire snares are illegal.
"Conservationists and the orang asli actually have the same goal - to protect the forests and the biodiversity it contains.
"An important thing to consider would be that, thankfully, the orang asli man called the police instead of a wildlife trader," said Wong.
"I believe there are avenues for both sides to work together for the greater good of Malaysian biodiversity," she said.
Rozidan said Perhilitan was mulling action against the orang asli who set the trap.
"We have urged the people, especially the orang asli, to stop laying these traps," he said.
"The orang asli usually lay these traps and wait for about a week. If they do not catch anything, they will just leave them there.
"Any animals trapped later could die of stress and hunger," said Rozidan.
I commend the orang asli for calling the wildlife authorities when they realised that they caught one of our critically-endangered tigers.
I would like to think that they didn't intend to catch the tiger, but with snares, you always risk catching something other than what you expect to.
But everyone, especially the orang asli, should be warned against using snares.
Not only are they illegal – but also because it is a cruel method of hunting.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own