KUALA LUMPUR – The crossing of paths by man and tiger in two instances this month in Terengganu and Perak has brought to the fore the plight of the Malayan tiger in the country.
Scientifically known as panthera tigris jacksoni, the Malayan tiger has been classified as ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
No wonder there was much concern when a pregnant tigress died after being rammed by an MPV on the East Coast Expressway 2 in Terengganu on Feb 6. On Feb 14, a tiger was caught in a wildboar trap set by an Orang Asli man near Tapah, Perak.
Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department deputy director-general 1 Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said a study undertaken two years ago revealed the existence of between 250 and 340 tigers in three major areas – the Belum-Temengor Tropical Forest in Perak, the National Park in Pahang and the Endau-Rompin Tropical Forest in Johor.
“However, this does not reflect the total tiger population in the country because there are jungles where no study has been made on these animals.
“As such, the government has provided an allocation under the 11th Malaysia Plan for the department to undertake a National Tiger Conservation Action Plan over five years to ascertain the tiger population in the jungles of the peninsula and carry out conservation,” he said.
Abdul Kadir said a tigress would need an area of between 30 sq km and 40 sq km to roam while a tiger would require an area of between 70 sq km and 80 sq km.
“Tigers prefer solitude, do not like to be disturbed and will not move to another area so long as their habitat remains undisturbed,” he said.
He said the tigress which was knocked down by a vehicle on the East Coast Expressway 2 could have been searching for food in an area that was once part of its habitat.
Abdul Kadir said that between 2010 and last year, the department recorded 28 cases of tigers having been snared, killed and smuggled and people having tiger parts in their possession.
Meanwhile, a university lecturer said satellites and infrared sensors could be used by the authorities to ensure the perpetuity of tigers.
Dr Tengku Rinalfi Putra Tengku Azizan, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Universiti Putra Malaysia, said the technology could be new in the management of wildlife but it had been applied in other fields such as shipping and highways.
“For example, the use of infrared sensors that can penetrate the density and high forest canopy can trace the movement of wild animals, including tigers.
“The sensors can also monitor and send photographs which can be transferred to satellites for documentation,” he told Bernama.
He said the technology had been applied in other countries such as the United States.
Dr Tengku Rinalfi Putra also proposed the modification of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones for use in dense and expansive jungles, saying these applications could help step up enforcement against illegal wildlife hunters while saving on manpower and cost.
On breeding, he said the tiger bred easily in the wild and if it was kept in an enclosure such as a zoo, its breeding would have to be controlled.
He said the breeding of tigers was relatively dependent on the balance in the food supply chain such as deer and wildboar.
“When the supply of food in the jungle runs out due to several factors, there is a huge possibility that the tiger will move to an area where there is an abundance of food such as a settlement where there are domestic animals.
“In the national park, for example, there is enough food because it is a protected area but we do not know the situation in other jungles. This may have been the reason for a tiger attack on a rubber tapper in Jeli, Kelantan, several years ago,” he said.