MELAKA: World Wildlife Fund Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) has raised concerns over the dwindling population of Malayan Tigers in the wild, saying that there is a need to protect the endangered big cat from extinction.
Its executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma said concerted effort from all parties were important in ensuring the survival of the species, which is also the national symbol of Malaysia.
"In the 1950's, there were an estimated 3,000 Malayan Tigers. In 1990, statistics by Perhilitan (Department of Wildlife and National Parks) showed there were 500 tigers left.
"Now, the latest figure is between 250 and 340 tigers," he told a press conference at the Sixth International Eco-Schools Conference attended by 71 students from Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore here today.
Present were Department of Environment deputy director-general (Development) Ismail Ithnin and WWF-Malaysia Markets and Education heads Thiaga Nadeson.
Dionysius made the stern call to members of the public to play their role in preserving the tiger, which has been classified as 'Critically Endangered'.
"Under the 11th National Plan, the government has allocated RM18 million to the Wildlife Department to conduct a survey to count tiger's population using chemo trackers.
"Although the data will only be released after a year or a year and a half later, we are concerned that the places where the tigers are spotted seems to be going down.
"This is one species that we cant afford to lose," he said.
"If we just sit down and do nothing, extinction will happen. All Malaysians, other than NGOs and the government must speak up so that all of us can work together to prevent the tigers from going extinct," he said.
Malayan tigers, scientifically known as 'Panthera tigris jacksoni', are found only in Peninsular Malaysia and in the southern tip of Thailand.
Dionysius also conveyed his concern over the extinction of leatherback sea turtles and the 'critically-endangered' Sumatran rhinos.
He said Sumatran rhinos, also the smallest of the living rhinoceroses were no longer found in Sarawak in the 1930's and the species is also no longer sighted anywhere in the Peninsular or Sabah.
"We are concerned as we have not been seeing these animals for the last few decades, although in real terms, we can only declare the animals as extinct if they are not sighted for 50 years.
"Currently, we only have two Sumatran rhinos in captivity," he said.
He added that the leatherback sea turtles, which are currently under the 'Vulnerable' status, were also no longer seen laying eggs at the Malaysian shores.
"We used to be one of the seven nesting places in the whole world where leatherback turtles will come to lay their eggs but over the last seven years or so, there has been no more leatherback turtles landing on our beaches to lay eggs.
"Although they still lay eggs in other parts of the world, but we do not have the nesting population in Malaysia anymore, and this is a concern," he said.