The Last Tigers  

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As we face more and more alarming numbers and statistics related to our endangered animals we face not only the loss of flora and fauna, but the loss of a country’s icon. Let’s look to Malaysia, a neighbor of Indonesia and a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural powerhouse. This country not only has a diverse population, but also is a megadiverse bio-climate with a high number of species and high levels of endemism. For their part Malaysia signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993 and produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention in 1998. However, they are not exempt from the trend of wildlife extinction. A prime example of that is the national animal of Malaysia; the Malayan Tiger.

The Malayan Tiger is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN in 2015, and in a count in 2013 researchers only found around 250 mature breeding individuals. This animal is important to the country: there are two of these tigers depicted on the coat of arms of Malaysia and it appears on many other heraldries of Malaysia. It is prominent in local folklore and the nickname of the Malaysian national football team. Overall it holds a strong place in the history and memory of the Malaysian people.

Malayan Tigers themselves are smaller than their Indian cousins, but still are magnificent predators. They prey on local deer and boar mostly, and like many other troubled carnivores occasionally take livestock as meals.

Their main threats are commercial poaching and infringement on their natural territories. While all states in which the tiger lives have banned domestic trade of tiger parts the practice continues. Their attacks on livestock leave people hunting down problem tigers. If their habitat loss and hunting doesn’t stop Malaysia will lose this important national symbol.

So what is being done? There are many success stories when it comes to endangered animals and scientists are hoping the Malayan Tiger will be one of them. First there is an effort to mitigate human-tiger conflict through better livestock management. By helping farmers have secure cattle sheds, tigers will reduce their predation leading to less needs to eliminate problem tigers. Next is land-use planning, that will lead to tiger-friendly choices and ensure protection of tiger habitats. Last is community outreach that will teach the people the importance of Malayan Tiger survival, and hopefully curb poaching. So, it isn’t all over for the tigers of Malaysia. As with anything there is hope and there is a will to allow these important creatures to survive.

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