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The Malayan Tiger

1.0 Subspecies

The tiger is group under Mammalia and is divided into orders Carnivora, consisting primarily

of meat eaters. This order in turn houses the family Felidae, made up exclusively of cats.

Within the family Felidae, the genus Panthera is found, includes four well known big cats :

Panthera leo, the lion; Panthera onca, the jaguar; Panthera pardus, the leopard and of course

Panthera tigris, otherwise known as the tiger. There are eight generally accepted tiger

subspecies in accordance with their geographic distribution ; Bali (P. t. balica), Caspian (P. t.

virgata), and Javan (P. t. sondaica) tiger subspecies were eradicated by the 1940s, 1970s, and

1980s respectively (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

The Malayan tigers used to describe an identical to the Indochinese tiger (P.t corbetti)

found throughout the Southeast Asia. However in 2004 a genetic study defined the Malayan

tigers as the new subspecies designated as P. t. jacksoni. It was as an honor to the

contributions of Peter Jackson, the former Chair of the World Conservation Union (IUCN)

Cat Specialist Group, who tirelessly laboured for more than 40 y on behalf of tiger

conservation.(Luo et al., 2004)

The Malayan tiger is the second smallest of tigers subspecies. They live in

tropical rainforest and have shorter, less dense and darker colour fur. Their average body

weight is 120 kg for males and 100kg for females.(Maybank,2010)

Living in hot climates in tropical jungles, the Malayan tigers control their body

temperature during the day by resting in shaded areas. They are also great swimmers and

enjoy to cool down by swimming in a nearby river or lake. They are most active in cooler

parts of the day. (Maybank, 2010)

2.0 Unique features.

The tigers are large but their weight is evenly distributed over their soft toe pads,

allowing swift, silent movement to bring down their target prey with their suffocating bite.

Their skeleton is strong to provide agility and flexible enough to wrestle the prey. The upper

parts of their limbs are longer and provide greater strength. Tigers are sprinters and are not

endurance runners. The tigers jaws filled with 30 teeth. Some are designed for gripping and

others for slicing meat, but the most fearsome of all are the canines: long and sharp that can

pierce dense muscle of prey and inflict maximum damage.

Tigers rely primarily on their keen eyesight, six times more powerful than a humans,

for hunting. Their highly sensitive eyes grant them superior night vision and can cope well

with daylight. They can detect the slightest movements and are able to estimate the distance

accurately. Tigers feel their way through the forest floor. Their whiskers provide are useful

for silently feeling through darkness and dense cover.

The iconic stripes is the defining characteristic of the tiger. Most visible stripes are the

orange and black stripes. The inner side of its limbs and underside are white. The shape,

number and arrangement of the stripes are unique and vary to each individual. The tigers coat

is to help them to maintain a constant body temperature and is also for camouflage.

(Maybank, 2010)

3.0 The prey

An adult male tiger needs 2,400 kg of meat a year to survive. Meaning that, they need to have

a successful kill about once a week. Tigers hunt in success in only about once in 20 attempts.

Tigers stalk their prey in silent and making use of every available cover slinking their prey

when they are distracted. Sometimes tigers get wounded while hunting. In several cases there

is evidence of porcupines spine lodged in their paws and faces.

A lucky hunt will see tigers quickly bringing their prey to the ground. They kill their

prey by a bite to the neck which cause severe damage in spinal cord or the windpipe. They

bring their prey in cover area to prevent other predator to stay close and steal their prey.

(Maybank, 2010)

The Malayan tiger preys primarily on sambar (Rusa unicolor), muntjac (Muntiacus

muntjak), wild pig (Sus scrofa) and gaur (Bos gaurus) (Rayan & Linkie, 2015).Tigers in

Taman Negara also known to prey on the sun bear. Other suspected prey and yet confirmed

included the Malayan tapir (Maybank, 2010). According to (DWNP, 2008) the wild pig is

probably the most important prey species for Malayan tigers due to its greater abundance and


4.0 Distribution and habitat

Tigers can live in a variety of habitat types; from peat swamp to small woodlands inside

plantations to lower mountain forest. In Malaysia, tigers are even found at the Gunung

Bintang Hijau at 1730m in Perak. However, they prefer lowland forest.(MYCAT, 2007)

Malaysias largest contiguous tiger landscape is found in the Main Range to the west,

running longitudinally from southern Thailand to southern Malaysia, connected to the Greater

Taman Negara, which includes Taman Negara National Park, the countrys premier national

park, and the surrounding Permanent Reserved Forests to the east.(Kawanishi et al., 2010)

The four main tiger states in Malaysia is Pahang, Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu

which can support 90% of the tiger habitat in Malaysia. (DNWP, 2005).However there is no

evidence of tiger found in Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Melaka and federal territories of Putrajaya

and Kuala Lumpur.(DNWP, 2005)

5.0 Status

Based on the knowledge of average numbers of tigers that can be supported by tropical

forests, the tigers energy needs, and the preceding tiger distribution map, a potential

population size of the Malayan tiger ranges from 500 to 1500 tigers. In reality however, it is

difficult to know. Best evidence now suggests that there are between 250 and 340 adult tigers

in the country (DWNP and MYCAT, 2014).

During the 1970s, attitudes changed and the fortune of the tiger in Malaysia took a

turn for the better with its listing as a totally protected species under the Protection of Wild

Life Act 1972. This law made it illegal to kill or possess body parts of a tiger. Many of the

tigers prey species such as the sambar deer, barking deer and wild pig are also listed on the

same law as protected species, meaning that hunting is only allowed with a license. Under

the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972, the trade in tigers only allowed for non-commercial

purposes such as research, captive breeding programme and exchange between zoological

parks. For these activities, permission in term of special permits from the Minister of Natural

Resources and Environment are required. (DWNP, 2008)

Worldwide, the tiger is considered as endangered by the IUCN Red List. Trade of

threatened wildlife across national boundaries is regulated by the Convention on International

Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). However in 2015, the

Malayan tiger has been listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened

Species. Meaning that this species faced highest risk in becoming extinct in the wild.

(MYCAT, 2015)

6.0 The Threat to Malayan tiger

The direct result of human expansion is the major problem of the drastic decreasing number

of Malayan tigers. Habitat loss due to rapid industrialisation of human settlements is the key

reason to this problem. According to Kawanishi et al., (2010) more land converted to large

scale rubber and oil palm plantations and further reducing forest cover to around 47% in the

1980s, a level that has been, more or less, maintained under the National Forestry Act of

1984. Other than that according to Kawanishi et al., (2010) the North South highway in

western Malaysia, connecting Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, effectively eliminated all

tigers west of that road. Now a similar multi-lane highway is being planned for eastern

Malaysia, where tiger habitat currently extends all the way to the coast. These have caused

the loss of majority species and threat to the population of Malayan tigers.

For thousands of years before, the tigers body parts have been desired for use in

traditional medicine. The increasing demands contributed to poaching other important threat

that the tigers face. During the colonial days of Malaya, tigers were widely hunted for sport

and were also considered pests. Until 1976 after devastating losses. Tigers was finally

recognised totally protected species. At this time tiger population estimated dropped to 300

and after the new legislation the population recover to 600 individuals in the late 1980s.

On the other hand Malayan tigers are being hunted for their bones, blood and sexual

organs in the use of traditional medicines of many cultures. This led to increasing pressure of

poaching (Rayan & Linkie, 2015) Skins, skulls, claws and teeth are traded as trophies and

talismans, while the meat consumed as an exotic dish. They were believed to possess magical

qualities and were sometimes turned into amulets and other forms of bodily decoration that

were meant to protect the wearer from harm. (Maybank, 2010)

Although there is strong urge to ban the trade of tigers part worldwide, the weak

enforcement in laws and regulations allows a few trader to sell tiger wines, balms, powders

and a host of similar concoctions. (Maybank, 2010). In 2015 a field survey conducted in

Belum Temenggor Sate Land Forest found out there is little dedicated anti-poaching patrol

and best reflect the increases poaching pressure in the area (Rayan & Linkie, 2015). Rayan

and Linkie (2015) also suggested specific measures should be taken for tackling poaching

through a robust law enforcement strategy.

There are 3612 cases were apprehended by DNWP from year 2001 to 2006, only 8

cases or less than 0.2% related to tiger parts. Some of the cases are taken action as below:

Year Offence Action Taken

2001 Illegal possessions of 15kg of tiger bones Fined RM16000 by court
2001 Illegal possessions of 5 pieces of tiger Still in court proceeding
2001 Illegal possessions of 1.5kg of tiger meat Fined RM 4000 by court
2003 Illegal possessions of 33.7kg tiger bones, Fined RM6000 by court

4 tiger fangs and 6 tiger claws

2003 Illegal possessions of 1 tiger skull, 10 Fined RM3000 by court

tiger fangs and 31 tiger claws
2003 Attempted smuggle into Malaysia 30 All fake specimens were

pieces of imitations of tiger skin by Indian confiscated; the Indian

national nationals were detained for

investigation and released

for having valid document

2004 Attempted smuggle into Malaysia 6 All fake specimens were

pieces of imitations of tiger skin and 144 confiscated; the Indian

claws by Indian national nationals were detained for

investigation and released

for having valid document

2005 Illegal possesions of 1 dead tiger To be retrial
Source: Report from Deparment of Wildlife and National Park (DNWP) Malaysia, 2005

7.0 Malayan tigers conservation

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks represent the Malaysian Government in

conserving and protecting the wildlife include the Malayan tiger. They perform variety of

tasks from park and reserve management to wildlife monitoring and surveys. They also

responsible for the enforcement of wildlife protection laws. The National Tiger Conservation

Action Plan was developed in coordination with non-governmental conservations

organisations. The objective is to act as an outlines of Malaysias preparation for saving wild

tigers in Malaysia and, as such, does not include management issues relating to captive tigers.

(DWNP, 2008)

In 2003, the Malaysian Conservation alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) was established to

provide closer coordination between researchers, conservationist, and the public and policy

makers. The group consist of four main conservation organisation in Malaysia; the Malaysian

Nature Society; TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, the Wildlife Conservation Society and WWF-

Malaysia. This coalitions is supported by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

(Maybank, 2010)

The goal of the Malayan Tiger Conservation Programme is to strengthen tiger

conservation in Malaysia by enhancing public awareness levels on tiger conservation-

related issues and by forging greater partnership through increased communication

and collaboration with MYCAT partners, the public, other government agencies,

members of the private sector and zoos.

(MYCAT, 2007 p. 2)

This project aimed to support four areas identified in 2006 by MYCAT as immediate

priorities which is to reduce local consumption and trafficking of tigers and tiger prey

through targeted campaigns, draw roadmaps to secure the future of the Malayan Tiger, build

local support and cultivating conservation-minded Malaysians through awareness

programmes in zoo and maintain the increased of conservation partnerships platform.

(MYCAT, 2007)

TRAFFIC Southeast Asia is an international wildlife trade monitoring network

established in 1976. Its mission is to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not athreat

to the conservation of nature. Its effort include taking part in undercover investigations

coordinated with local law enforcement. Another NGO that actively involved in Malayan

tigers conservation is Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). It was a global society began in

United States an involved in 500 conservation projects across 60 countries. In peninsula

Malaysia, WCS works with DWNP in Taman Negara and other state authorities to curb

poaching by two major activities. The first is catalysing and supporting effective on-the-

ground ranger patrolling either by foot in the backcountry or by using vehicles. Mobile spot

checks are conducted with the engagement of government to enhance anti-poaching activities

(DWNP, 2008).

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is another important NGO that contributed to

conservation of wildlife including Malayan tigers. Its mission to stop the degradation of

planets nature environment and to build a future which human live in harmony with nature.

WWF-Malaysia which started in 1972, covering a diver has conducted over 75 projects on

environmental protection and conservation nationwide. Tigers Alive! project which began

in 1998 was aimed to reduce human-tiger conflict in education and move forward to monitor

tigers and their prey.

Dr Kae Kawashi is the Programme Manager and Chief Wildlife Biologist for MYCAT

is a prominent name in tiger conservation in Malaysia. She has conducted a lot of research in

the deep jungles of Malaysia and has helped bring about important steps towards saving the

tiger. She claimed habitat loss and poaching are not the only threats to Malayan tiger

population. Another greatest challenges is to change peoples attitude, perception and

behaviour towards a more ethical and sustainable future. In her current project, she worked

together with other scientist to have a complete detailed survey of wildlife in Sungai Yu the

last connectivity between Main Range and Taman Negara. Kawashi conducted camera

trapping studies and got three images of two different tigers in May 2010. Based on her

studies Kawashi predicted that a population of 68 adult tigers in Taman Negara and the

number would enhance greatly if the population could be connected in other surrounding

forest by safe dispersal corridors.

Future efforts to constructively engage government agencies must be focused to

conserve tiger population. In addition to this, it is imperative that selectively logged forests

should not be considered as degraded habitat and thereby used as an excuse for it to be

converted to monoculture timber plantations (Aziz et al., in Rayan & Linkie, 2015). Rayan

and Linkie (2015) urged against the establishment of monoculture plantations in Forest

Reserve and state land forest corridors within Peninsular Malaysia especially since the status

of tigers and other endangered species remains largely unknown in these forest habitats.


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