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There are only 200 Malayan tigers left in the wild. PIC BY AIZUDDIN SAAD

KUALA LUMPUR: WILL Malaysians be able to live with guilt over their failure to protect the Malayan tiger if the species becomes extinct?

In posing the question, conservationist Dr Mark Rayan Darmaraj said with only 200 Malayan tigers left in the wild, the species could go extinct in two to three years.

He said there was an urgent need to act now for the species to have any chance of survival.

“We will lose our tigers in two or three years, and I am being optimistic here.

“If we leave things as they are, the Malayan tiger could be driven into extinction even faster.

“By taking care of tigers, the apex predator, we are also protecting the ecosystem.

“The abundance of tigers is a sign of a healthy ecosystem,” he told the New Straits Times.

He said the existing programmes and initiatives had yet to achieve the desired results as evident in the declining number of wildlife species.

Darmaraj, who is WWF-Malaysia Peninsular Malaysia Terrestrial Conservation Programme’s Tiger Landscape lead, lamented the lack of coordination between agencies.

He suggested that the government establish a wildlife crime unit, a team which specialised in investigations and intelligence gathering.

This, he said, would boost the team’s professionalism and ensure that legal action was followed through right from the evidence collection stage to the prosecution process.

This team, he said, could gather intelligence on poaching syndicates, which were part of the
larger illegal wildlife trade network.

“In most reported cases, those who were prosecuted for hunting endangered species could have been working for foreign syndicates.

“Cracking this should be made a priority, apart from penalising those who are guilty of committing wildlife crimes.”

Government agencies, Darmaraj said, should work together to address illegal hunting through concerted efforts.

“In this respect, I applaud the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry’s initiative to enrol the army to curb illegal hunting. But this has to be mobilised soon.There is no time to waste if we want to see the tigers survive.”

To demonstrate its seriousness in tackling the issue, he said the government should establish a high-level committee task force, headed by the prime minister that could compel relevant agencies and stakeholders to support conservation efforts.

He said one of the factors which had driven wildlife species, including the Malayan tiger, to the brink of extinction was poaching, which contributed RM23 billion to the illegal wildlife trade every year.

Darmaraj said combating wildlife crimes must be made a priority, as it posed the largest threat to the survival of the species.

“Other factors include the scarcity of food caused by loss of habitat. We have handled a few cases in Kelantan where the tigers were known to have attacked villagers.

We found out that the tigers have ventured out of the forest because of the lack of food source, mainly the sambar deer. Sickly tigers or those injured by snares have resorted to attacking humans.

“We worked with villagers to prevent tigers from encroaching on rubber plantations by clearing the areas and putting up a perimeter fence.”

He said efforts such as the breeding of sambar deer could ensure the survival of the species.

“The onus is on us to ensure the survival of our wildlife species. If the Malayan tigers become extinct, we will be held accountable and answerable to future generations.”

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