The Malayan Tiger has been placed under the “critically endangered” category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). IUCN said it has evidence that the number of mature tigers is “likely less than 250”, declining by 25% in 1 generation (7 years).
It said the tigers were categorised in the “red list” as there were no pockets of forest in Malaysia with an estimated population of 50 or more mature tigers.
Note: IUCN’s list is considered the world’s most comprehensive source of information on wild animals and plants and the level of threat they face.
“This acknowledgement of our research is sadly, a tacit recognition that our tigers face a bleak future,” Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) general manager Dr Kae Kawanishi said in a statement Tuesday (28th July).
Kawanishi said the 2 biggest causes for the decline in the tiger population were poaching and loss of habitat.
Commercial poaching has always been a problem and it occurs at varying levels in all tiger range states. In Malaysia, there is a substantial domestic market in recent years for tiger “products”. The tigers were hunted for their bones which are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Tiger teeth, claws, skin, and meat also fetch high prices on the illegal market.
A study by Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (Traffic) revealed that parts equivalent to at least 94 tigers were recovered from 33 seizures from 2000 to 2013 in Malaysia.
Quick facts about the Malayan Tiger:
- Its vernacular name is “Malayan tiger” while its scientific name is “Panthera tigris jacksoni”, a name given to honour tiger conservationist Peter Jackson, who was also the Chairman of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission between 1983 and 2000.
- The Malayan tiger is the national animal of Malaysia. It symbolises bravery and strength to Malaysians.
- 2 tigers are depicted as supporters in the coat of arms of Malaysia, and the tiger appears in various heraldry of Malaysian institutions such as Royal Malaysian Police, Maybank, Proton, and Football Association of Malaysia.
- It is also the nickname for the Malaysian national football team (Harimau Malaya). The tiger has been given various nicknames by Malaysians, notably “Pak Belang,” which literally means “Uncle Stripes”.
- Malayan tigers appear to be smaller than Indian ones. From measurements of 11 males and 8 females, the average length of a male is 8 ft 6 in (259 cm), and of a female 7 ft 10 in (239 cm).
- The Cincinnati Zoo was the first zoo in North America to begin a captive breeding program for Malayan tigers with the importation of a male and 3 females from Asia between 1990 and 1992.
The Malayan Tiger was recognised as a new sub-species in 2004. It previously classified as “Endangered” in 2008.
Earlier moves to increase Malaysia’s tiger population to 1,000 by 2020, such as specified in the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan, were now considered “unachievable”. The Malayan Tiger now joins other critically-endangered animals such as the Namdapha flying squirrel and the Asiatic cheetah.
The remaining tiger population is estimated to be only 5,000 – 7,000 with 3 of the traditional 8 subspecies – the Javan, Bali and Caspian tigers – becoming extinct in the mid to late 20th century.
Kawanishi has since called on Malaysians to voice their concerns and show their support for their wild tigers.
To make a report on wildlife crime, contact the Wildlife Crime Hotline at 019-356 4194.
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