GERIK: The fate of the Malayan tiger in Belum-Temenggor Forest Reserve hangs in the balance as rampant poaching continues.
Perak State Parks Corporation (PSPC) general-manager Mohamed Shah Redza Hussein said the species could become extinct in the next six to seven years if no immediate and drastic measures are taken.
"About seven to eight years ago, we had more than 60 tigers in Belum-Temenggor. But the latest study showed that there are only 23 left in this rainforest.
"This shows that the population has declined by about 60 per cent. If we do not take action now, I am sure within the next two or three years, we would have less than 10 tigers left, which is not enough for reproduction.
"And within six or seven years, this species will be extinct," he told reporters after attending the World Tiger Day celebration at Taman Inai, which was jointly organised by PSPC, Gerik district council and Malayan Tiger Conservation Association.
Also present were Raja Permaisuri Perak, Tuanku Zara Salim and her children Raja Kecil Besar, Raja Azlan Muzaffar Shah, and Raja Nazira Safya; and Raja Dihilir Perak, Raja Iskandar Dzulkarnain Sultan Idris Shah.
The Belum-Temenggor forest reserve forms the last and largest contiguous block of natural forest in Peninsular Malaysia. It covers an area of over 300,000 hectares in the state and crosses into Southern Thailand.
The tropical rainforest of Belum-Temenggor is believed to have existed for over 130 million years. This makes it one of the world’s oldest rainforests, older than both the Amazon and the Congo.
Mohamed Shah Redza said PSPC and the state Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) had also identified that most poaching activities were done by Indo-China nationals with the help of locals here.
"These poachers who have vast experience in such activities are from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. We know that tigers in these countries are already extinct.
"These professional poachers know that there still exists a number of tigers in Malaysia, especially in the Peninsular. Even though there are less than 200 left, they are still adamant to catch, kill and trap our tigers. It is time for us to fight back," he said.
Asked on measures that need to be taken immediately to prevent the extinction of this species, Mohamed Shah Redza said the PSPC had increased its patrolling officers from 16 to 32 this year.
"We hope we can increase the number to 50, but we are facing financial issues. At the same time, the federal government has conducted many programmes in order to create awareness. Last week, the Prime Minister’s wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali made a public call to all Malaysians to help with tiger conservation works as an effort to preserve the population of Malayan tigers,” he said.
Mohamed Shah Redza said PSPC was also in the midst of improving its technical ability, such as having more specialised training and more sophisticated equipment. However, all these required a lot of funds, he sid.
"We have also discussed with the state government to make Perak a free-illegal poaching state. I have received the commitment from Raja Dihilir as the patron of PSPC and Perhilitan director-general. We will come out with a thorough plan to ensure that natural resources are preserved," he said.
He also advised the locals not to kill the tiger’s main food source, such as the sambar deer as it could also affect the population of the Malayan Tigers.
"They should also stop helping illegal poachers in term of providing logistics and food supply. The right thing to do is to lodge a report to the authority. They can be charged with abetting if caught," he said.