By Mohd Haikal Mohd Isa
KLUANG, July 22 (Bernama) -- Kahang town, about 40km from Kluang, seems like any other towns in Malaysia except that it is surrounded by virgin jungles and the Endau-Rompin National Park, and hosts a number of exotic food restaurants.
"If you are a regular customer and the restaurant operator knows you, you will be offered a variety of dishes made from protected animals including tiger meat," said a private sector employee, Danny Chin.
He said the tiger meat, said to be good for health and contain aphrodisiac value, was served either fried with curry powder or cooked with various herbs.
"But I think, the customers prefer tiger meat fried with curry powder," said the man in his 50s from Taman Perling in Johor Baharu who has gone to the restaurants several times with friends.
"Because the supply is inconsistent, only the lucky ones who come on certain days will be able to enjoy it," he said and added that the price for a plate of tiger meat fried with curry power was about RM40.
Besides tiger meat which is considered a special menu, the restaurants also offer dishes made from piglet, wild boar, mountain goat, squirrel, mousedeer, bat, porcupine, ant-eater, tortoise, civet and various types of fish and prawn found in rivers in the Endau-Rompin National Park.
"The meat of young wild boar, mountain goat and mousedeer is sweet and tender," Danny said.
Lek Keng Chai, 40, also from Johor Baharu, said Kahang was not only popular among local residents as an exotic food destination but had also drawn visitors from Singapore.
He said the restaurants obtained their supplies from middlemen who bought the animals from the Orang Asli.
Lee Siak Liang, 62, from Kluang, said the restaurants also offered python soup and Kahang was not the only place where protected animal dishes were served because such restraurants could also be found in Jementah and Labis in the Segamat district.
Johor National Park Corporation director Abu Bakar Mohd Salleh said his corporation had received reports about such restaurants in Kahang.
He said the price of exotic animals like tiger in the black market could fetch between RM100,000 and RM200,000 each "but normally, the meat, teeth, whiskers and sexual organ are sold to different people."
Some Orang Asli in Kahang acted as agents who caught the animals including tiger in the jungles and sold them in the black market, he said but dismissed allegations that the tiger meat served in Kahang was from those caught in the Endau-Rompin National Park.
"So far, we have not detected any tiger hunting activities in the Endau-Rompin National except only one case in 2004," he said and added that the corporation did not have information about the number of tigers in the park.
A researcher working for a non-governmental organisation said those involved in the smuggling of wild animals including tiger around Kahang carried out their activities in a very organised manner to avoid detection by the authorities.
"It is an organised crime," he said, refusing to disclose his identity for safety reasons.