Protecting The 'Malayan Tiger'
By Mazani Chan Yat Sin
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 (Bernama) -- English poet William Blake of the 17th century era became fascinated by the tiger to the extent that he wrote a poem entitled 'The Tyger' where the opening lines are:
"Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
As the Chinese community in Malaysia and rest of the world await the countdown for the arrival of the Year Of The Tiger, experts on wildlife conservation are struggling in their efforts to prevent the Malayan tiger from becoming extinct.
Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department's Director for Biodiversity Conservation, Mohd Nawayai Yasak said the population of the Malayan tiger in the Peninsula now is about 500.
(According to sources, the Malayan tiger is not found in the jungles of Sabah and Sarawak. As for its cousin, the Sumatran tiger which is found in Sumatra, is bigger in size and length as compared to the Malaysian species).
The Malayan tiger, Panthera Tigris Jacksoni, can only be found in the Peninsula and most of these mammals are in the thick jungles of Perak, Kelantan, Pahang and Terengganu.
"The population size of the Malayan tiger is getting smaller and we need to do something before this species become extinct," he told Bernama in Perhilitan's office at Jalan Cheras here recently.
Throughout 2008, Perhilitan's game rangers carried out 174 operations and destroyed some 1,000 tiger traps and snares.
"Most of the snares set up by poachers are of the wire type where it can endanger not only the big cats but other animals that pass through the spot," he said.
WILD AND BREED
The tiger population in the country dropped significantly from the some 3,000 in the 1950s to only about 300-400 in the 1990s.
"From 1989 to 2008, we have successfully bred 50 tiger cubs at the Melaka Zoo.
"We carried out two methods. The ex-situ breeding where the tiger born in the zoo is left to be with its group while the in-situ breeding involves the tiger that roam in the jungles and allowed to breed and move freely there," said Mohd Nawayai.
"However the cost for the ex-situ breeding is high as it incurs various expenditures like the tiger cub's upkeep, its food and the likes as a tiger is known to consume a lot of food," he said.
In the move to improve the conservation efforts, the authorities are reviewing the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 to enable stiffer fines to be imposed on poachers and wildlife smugglers.
NGO AND STAtE GOVERNMENT
The cooperation from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and state governments is crucial towards protecting the tigers, he said.
"We cannot do this alone. That is why we are hoping for the collaboration from the NGOs like the WWF, the public and state governments.
"We welcome the effort of the state government to gazette the state forests and reserve jungles as the permanent place for the conservation of tigers in the country," he said.
Meanwhile the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia has created a unit known as 'Team Ronda' to curb activities that can lead to the extinction of the mammals.
"Team Ronda comprises 10 volunteers from WWF and will conduct patrols at spots that draw the presence of poachers," said the programme's officer Ahmad Zafir Abdul Wahab at WWF Malaysia office in Petaling Jaya.
"From early January 2009 until today, Team Ronda and Perhilitan have destroyed 114 tiger traps installed by poachers at the areas fringing Tasik Temenggor and Belum Forest Reserve," he said.
Inconjunction with the arrival of the Year Of The Tiger, WWF has conducted a programme known as 'TX2' to double the population of the Malayan tiger.
WWF Malaysia corporate communications officer Sara Sukor said the programme is staged to boost public awareness on the importance of conserving the tigers.
"The programme is organised by the WWF and held worldwide. We want to deliver a message via this programme that the Malayan tiger is in danger of extinction," she said.
"The TX2 programme is not only to double the population of the tigers but also to ensure that the mammals are free from extinction," she said.
The programme uses the tiger as its mascot and contributions received from the public as well as the corporate and private sectors will be used to carry out protection and conservation efforts for these mammals.