1000 tigers in Malaysia by 2020
By: Rachelle Gan (Wed, 20 Jan 2010)
KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 20, 2010): The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) announced at a press conference today its year-long campaign to double the current number of tigers here by 2020 in conjunction with the lunar Year of the Tiger.
Several roadshows to raise awareness of the campaign have been mapped out throughout the year, with stops planned in Zoo Negara, Pahang, Puchong, Gua Musang and Perak among others.
Mycat, which formulated the National Tiger Action Plan (TAP) in 2008, is a joint programme of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Traffic Southeast Asia, and the Wildlife Conservation Society – Malaysian Programme and WWF-Malaysia.
There are an estimated 500 tigers in Malaysia, and TAP's goal is to have 1000 tigers in the Central Forest Spine – the 51,000 km2 backbone of Peninsular Malaysia’s environmentally sensitive area (ESA) network – by 2020.
"The implementation of this visionary plan ensures not only the survival of the tiger in the coming decades, but that it increases in number,’ MNS executive director Dr Loh Chi Leong said.
He said what a tiger needs most is space, and the plan is to link fragmented forest parts of the Central Forest Spine with ecological corridors, providing them that space.
An adult male tiger needs approximately 250 sq km of space however, 1000 tigers in the 51,000 sq km Central Forest Spine would mean only 51 sq km of space per tiger.
Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia Programme director Dr Melvin Gumal explains that eventually, male tigers will share their home ranges with three females and multiple offspring, hence their spaces will overlap. Such cases have occurred at reserves in India and Russia.
Gumal believes the plan is politically and biologically doable, and the 1000 tiger population figure achievable.
Malaysia is the most important tiger range in Southeast Asia because it still has sizable tiger populations and is also one of the last two stronghold countries in the world with biological possibilities for tiger survival. The Malayan tiger has the best chance of survival and doubling its current number.
However, the one detrimental caveat to the TAP is poaching.
WWF-Malaysia executive director and CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said poaching had to be reduced. "The last 12 months alone, 10 tigers have been taken out of the Basor forest area; the poachers are very efficient," he said.
Asked if government insiders were feeding the poachers with information, Traffic Southeast Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said: "Poachers are going out of their way to collect this information, they have their own intelligence – they are well-armed and equipped. Whether or not information is being fed should not be the focus."
Not yet a month into the year, and already 114 snares have been removed and 10 poachers and traders arrested.
Mycat has planned a series of outreach programmes in poaching hotspots to counter it. One of their solutions is the Wildlife Crime Hotline, anyone who sees or suspects any wildlife being illegally traded can call 019-3564194 and leave an anonymous tip.
"Everyone has a part to play, the illegal trade in tigers is driven largely by demand. If there is no demand, there is no reason to kill then" said John. She compared the illegal wildlife trade to the drug trade saying it amassed billions of dollars.
"This is the best chance we have to seriously attempt to save the tigers from extinction, we have a choice to save them, to do something," concluded Dionysius.