KUALA TERENGGANU: HABITAT loss, especially in forest reserves, and increased conflict with humans, have shrunk the tiger population in Terengganu to an estimated 23 animals.
The number is expected to decrease further.
The frequency of data capture based on sightings, camera trap research and wildlife inventory showed 16 tigers recorded in 2012, but this year, only seven were sighted, including one killed by poachers in Kemaman.
State National Parks and Wildlife Department director Mohd Hasdi said the seven sightings of the Malayan Tiger recorded this year were near forest reserves and in areas close to national park borders.
“Sightings or conflicts reported this year were in Kerteh and Cerul in Kemaman, Ketengah Jaya in Dungun and Kuala Berang in Hulu Terengganu.
“The numbers showed a decline, primarily due to habitat loss and conflict with humans for food.”
He said the department conducted enforcement in areas that had high tiger population, such as in forest reserves surrounding Tasik Kenyir, the Terengganu National Park, Puah and Tembat dams as well as in Kemaman, Dungun and Besut.
“A live tiger is more expensive than a dead one but it is not easy to trap a tiger alive. Usually, a tiger will either be shot dead or snared. A dead tiger or the sale of its body parts can fetch hundreds of thousands of ringgit.
“The parts, such as the fur and fangs, are sold for decorative purposes, while the gall, feet and meat are traded as traditional medicine.”
Hasdi said despite the high penalty imposed on offences related to the poaching of tigers, the crime persisted because of the lure of the high prices for the animal, dead or alive.
“Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act Amended Act 716, those who committed tiger-related offences can be fined from RM100,000 to RM500,000. But it seems the high penalties are no deterrent.
“We need to reinforce the law with intelligence activities and increase public awareness in hotspots and conflict areas.
“We also provide technical recommendations in Environmental Impact Assessment on mitigation measures to prevent conflicts and to avoid development in areas that will disturb the habitat of tigers.”
He said the department was also conducting a study under the Central Forest Spine (CFS) at three viaducts in Hulu Terengganu together with Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, as well as several related non-governmental organisations.
“The study covers all wildlife and not specifically tigers,” he said.