MYCAT recently announced that there are less than 200 wild Malayan Tigers left in Malaysia. This number is tremendously small considering the size of Peninsular Malaysia. How are these 200 or less tigers going to meet to reproduce for the next generation of rainforest guardians? We see the image of the Malayan Tiger everywhere in Malaysia. With its strength and beauty it can’t be anything else but our national animal. We can find tigers on the chest of all the national football teams and even on the front of our national car, Proton.
Tigers are in the Malaysian press a lot. Unfortunately, for bad and sad reasons. In the months of January and February 2016, two tigers died whilst being traded for their parts. A local person accidentally caught the tiger in a wild boar trap. Another more upsetting episode in which a car hit and killed a mother carrying two unborn cubs on a newly opened highway. That’s six tigers lost in just 60 days! The future isn’t looking that good for the majestic Malayan Tiger.
As the situation is quite critical and the Malayan tigers are disappearing, the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry in joint action with the police and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) pulled together against the poaching activity and sale of protected wildlife. Read more about their efforts on this article.
Tigers reproduce relatively quickly. Their keen sense of smell allows males to efficiently find receptive females, so if left alone there is hope. By focusing on reducing the human impacts causing the tiger populations to decline, nature will do the rest.
Can tiger tourism benefit conservation?
India is a great example of bringing tigers back from the brink, showing how conservation and tourism plays hand in hand and really benefits one another. In India there are six main tiger reserves that are playing an important role for the tourism industry. The chance to see tigers in the wild draws large numbers of tourists, calculated at over 2 million tourists per year. Tourists are paying entrance fees, accommodation and food, contributing to an estimated US$850 million every year as a result of tiger tourism.
So can this happen in Malaysia?
The initial answer people normally say is no. Yes, I agree that tiger tourism will never be as popular in Malaysia as it is in India. I think the main reason is that the Malayan Tigers live in dense rainforests where they aren’t used to humans. Even if you were to venture too close to one, then the chances of spotting it is very slim due to their amazing camouflage. So on face value I would say no.
However, tiger tourism is starting in Malaysia. Slowly, but it’s starting. Groups such as MYCAT and also our Fuze-Ecoteer projects are proving that tiger tourism is possible in Malaysia, though be it at present on a small scale. MYCAT through their CAT Walk programme and Fuze-Ecoteer through our Malayan Rainforest Station project give the everyday person the chance to join our poacher surveillance walks.
Patrols are essentially jungle trekking with a purpose and focus on areas of high wildlife and poacher activity densities. On our Merapoh project, our walks are more conservation than tourist focused and along not popular trails. During these walks our participants look for animal tracks as well as signs of human encroachment. After they report anything found to the local authorities. These walks at present could easily be replicated at other areas where Malayan tigers and poachers are known to roam.
The 4×4 trucks can be a solution for the less able and less adventurous tourists as they provide extra comfort and protection. The larger animals and poachers use old logging trails as well. In order to fund more patrols we can benefit from the revenue generated from these conservation treks. For example, when tourists and volunteer join a patrol thanks to their programme fee they can contribute to fund another patrol when tourists are not present. Tourism is in affect funding increased patrols. We currently have no powers for arrests and punish directly poachers, but we are producing reports, which is allowing for authorized government officials to go on focused patrols.
Will everyone benefit?
Tourists are enjoying it as they are going on purposeful holidays. This is a growing niche out of the voluntourism and gap year boom. Tourists want that extra connection now more than ever before. These kind of programmes can provide it. Scaling this up, sensibly and with conservation at the core, several similar programmes could be established across Malaysia: facilitating more eyes and ears to be in the forests deterring poachers and giving the Malayan Tiger and her friends a chance of survival.
Tourists can really play a part to help save the tigers of Malaysia, so join the fight now!
Want to help Malayan Tigers?
Get your feet dirty and join Ecoteer and MYCAT activities and conservation treks in the Malaysian rainforests: