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24 Jan 2015, Petaling Jaya: World Wide Fund for Nature – Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) is heartened by the Government of India’s recent announcement declaring their success in increasing the number of wild tigers in India from an estimated 1,706 in 2010, to the current 2,226 individuals. At a time when tigers are on the brink of extinction in most other tiger range countries, India has made remarkable progress by increasing their tiger population by 30% in just four short years. Significantly, this means that India likely contains more than two thirds of the world’s remaining wild tigers.
Closer to home, the situation is much different. Less than six months ago, the number of Malayan tigers was discovered to have declined to an estimated 250-340, down from our previous best guess of 500 tigers back in 2003. Unfortunately, this scenario is prevalent in other South East Asian countries as well, where they are heavily persecuted by poaching and deforestation. This is despite the international commitment of tiger range country governments to double their tiger populations by the next Year of the Tiger, in 2022.
However, hope remains. Drawing parallels with Malaysia, at one point even the Bengal tiger was in a precarious situation. The main driving force behind reversing this trend was that the Government of India had the political will to rectify the situation. The government started by launching ‘Project Tiger’, an ambitious plan to maintain a viable population of tigers within the country. A National Tiger Task Force was also formed to stem the decline, substantial policy and management changes were subsequently made. This farsighted conservation initiative has culminated in it being recognised as one of the most high profile international conservation success stories.
India’s success should serve as a platform to spur and inspire the leaders of other tiger range countries, including Malaysia, to take concrete steps towards recovering their dwindling tiger populations. To do this, the government needs to take a strong proactive approach towards tiger conservation efforts in Malaysia by learning from the experience of other countries, working closely with tiger conservation organisations, and adapting relevant management interventions. India’s success has thrown down the gauntlet, so to speak; hence it is Malaysia’s turn to follow up with its own success story. It’s a highly-challenging, but achievable goal!
It is not just up to the government however; it needs a concerted effort from state governments, enforcement authorities, NGOs, as well as members of the public. WWF-Malaysia reiterates the previous call by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) to:
- Establish dedicated Tiger Patrol Units on the ground to protect and monitor individual tigers that have been identified through surveys at the three priority areas (Belum-Temengor, Taman Negara, and Endau-Rompin).
- Undertake a comprehensive National Tiger Survey that will also increase the number of boots on the ground, and therefore increase tiger protection, throughout the Central Forest Spine (the remaining major forested landscapes in Peninsular Malaysia).
- Strengthen the existing mechanism to review, better coordinate and monitor the implementation of the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan and Central Forest Spine Master Plan.
Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma