Public Awareness, Participation Critical in Preserving Malaysia’s Tiger Population

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Raising awareness among the public and roping in their participation to support the government’s conservation efforts is critical for Malaysia to preserve its dwindling tiger population, according to sustainability experts.

This will enable a strong mobilization that will raise the profile of threats to these endangered big cats while also reaffirming their place in Malaysia’s natural and cultural spaces, Centre for Governance and Political Studies Climate Change and Sustainability Advisor Renard Siew Yung Jhien told Xinhua in a recent interview.

While the primary threat to the Malaysian Tiger, a subspecies native to the region, remains deforestation and illegal wildlife trade including poaching, Siew said more needs to be done to involve the public in conservation efforts.

“We really have to focus on forest conservation and preservation and then there are pockets of initiatives that are already happening in Peninsula Malaysia, for example, the Central Forest Spine project, which aims to connect fragmented forests, so that they can actually end up being a wildlife reserve for wildlife to roam around freely for food and survival,” he said.

The second thing is to build up knowledge, awareness and capacity, which is the premise to truly take action, he explained, citing initiatives such as the World Tiger Day, which happens on the 29th of July, as an example.

“It’s very important first to continue taking stock of where we are in terms of progress and are we actually helping the tiger population to thrive,” he said.

Siew, who was born in the year of the tiger, said the tiger held a special place in his heart and mind, as it did for many other Malaysians, being featured in the country’s coat of arms, in the name of its national football team as well as the country’s national animal.

“They are very symbolic because they basically represent the health of our ecosystem. They’re a symbol that our forests, ecosystem is actually thriving,” he said.

The Malayan Tiger, which was previously widespread in Southern Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, has seen its numbers dwindle to less than 150 animals in the wild, according to estimates by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Despite the bleak outlook, conservation efforts have found some success with the Royal Belum State Park being awarded the prestigious Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CATS) approval in recognition of its exceptional conservation efforts and commitment to tiger conservation in April.

Meanwhile, Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said efforts are being undertaken to stop the decline in the tiger population, with 50 million ringgit (10.9 million U.S. dollars) being allocated for 1,500 community rangers to combat illegal wildlife trade as part of the government’s biodiversity protection and patrolling program.

He explained these efforts have resulted in the arrest of 460 individuals involved in the illegal wildlife trade and seizures worth 112 million ringgit (24.6 million dollars) and the dismantling of 1,875 traps and snares since 2019, he said in a statement.

“We cannot remain silent until the Malayan Tiger population crisis is successfully and completely addressed. We need to continue to strengthen efforts to save our Malayan Tigers which is an iconic species. Therefore, let us all join hands to protect the Malayan Tiger for present and future generations,” he said.