WE are losing our Malayan tigers, the symbol of national pride. The Malayan tiger proudly flanks our jata negara or national emblem. It is a representation of strength and courage; an inspiration to Malaysians from all walks of life.
As the world gears up to celebrate Global Tiger Day on July 29, Malaysia is in the spotlight again after the recent raid by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) in Pahang. Some of the most valuable animal parts seized, including skin, were suspected to be from three Malayan tigers (one of which is said to be a tiger cub).
Non-governmental organisations, enforcement authorities, corporate stakeholders and local communities are racing to keep our tigers alive. Yet, despite all the collaborative efforts, poaching for the illegal wildlife trade remains the most urgent and critical threat to the Malayan tigers.
The influx of foreign poachers into Malaysia’s forests is alarming. In last week’s raid, six Vietnamese poachers were arrested, all of whom are believed to be part of an illegal network that target tigers. The presence of foreigners in our forests reiterates the urgent need to step up wildlife protection efforts on the ground at a national level, including transboundary collaboration.
In the past year, there has been significant progress in tiger conservation in Malaysia. Perak made history last year when it became the first in Southeast Asia to register Royal Belum State Park for Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS), which is an accreditation scheme that encourages tiger conservation areas to meet a set of standards and criteria to assure effective and long-term tiger conservation. At the High-Level Dialogue on Enhancing Tiger Conservation Efforts in July last year, Perak committed to achieving zero poaching by 2020. At the Royal Belum–WWF Conservation Summit in November, the state reiterated its commitment.
Zero poaching is not impossible. A success story is Nepal, which achieved 365 days of zero poaching for rhinos, elephants and tigers between 2013 and 2014. This was possible only due to effective and continuous collaborative efforts between enforcement agencies, like the police and armed forces, and regulatory bodies, such as the National Tiger Conservation Committee (chaired by the prime minister of Nepal) and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. These bodies were established to address poaching and the illegal wildlife trade network holistically from an enforcement perspective. Nepal has now set a precedence in curbing poaching on a global scale.
WWF-Malaysia has always advocated the need to have more intelligence-based and collaborative efforts between enforcement agencies to support anti-poaching operations. We commend Perhilitan on the recent bust and for its continuous efforts to work with the army and police in fighting wildlife crime. However, for Malaysia to achieve zero poaching, as Nepal has, it will require a much bigger step up in collaborative efforts, especially due to the lack of adequate enforcement staff on the ground to protect our forests.
The illegal wildlife trade is an organised crime that is threatening the existence of many species. It operates the same way illegal drugs and weapons are dealt with — by international networks. The scale of the global illegal wildlife trade as a business is massive, with the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) valuing it between US$7 billion and US$23 billion (RM28 billion and RM92 billion ) a year in 2017.
In a report released in March last year, Unep and Interpol had estimated the value of environmental crime at US$258 billion a year. With a growth rate of five to seven per cent each year, environmental crime is outpacing the growth of our global economy by two to three times. After narcotics, human trafficking and weapons, wildlife crime is the fourth most lucrative illegal business in the world.
Yes, we stand to lose our tigers. But by practising intolerance towards wildlife crimes and working together to support conservation, there is still hope to protect our Malayan tigers for generations to come. We can still ensure their survival if we act now, instead of standing by the sidelines as their extinction is documented.
Even Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was recently quoted as saying, “if we do not care and consider animals as something that could become extinct, there will not be any more animals in the world one day.”
It is time for the Malayan tigers to be made a national priority. This Global Tiger Day, be a voice for our tigers.
Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
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