Tigers found in logged forests of Malaysia, could help expand conservation efforts
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Wild tigers caught on camera in a rare study in Malaysia show the endangered carnivores can thrive in partially logged forests, experts said Thursday, in an effort to encourage Malaysian authorities to widen its conservation measures.
The study indicated that better wildlife protection in those areas, long thought to be less valuable in conservation efforts, could help Malaysia meet its aim of doubling its tiger population in 12 years, the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement.
WWF researchers used discreetly placed cameras covering 75 square miles (120 square kilometers) of the forest reserve in eastern Kelantan state to capture images of six individual adult tigers between October 2004 and July 2005, according to the study published in January in the British science journal Oryx.
Officials estimate Malaysia’s wild tiger population has fallen from 3,000 to 500 in the last half-century, largely due to illegal hunting, human encroachment and the destruction of the tigers’ natural jungle habitat.
The government last year announced a plan to have 1,000 tigers roaming in the wild by 2020 through increased protection of jungle corridors where poachers prey on the big cats.
The survey revealed that “selectively logged forests have the potential to accommodate a high population density of tigers,” the WWF statement said — contradicting beliefs by Malaysian authorities that conservation efforts should be focused on forests where there has been less logging.
But despite the new findings, the study still indicated the need to “halt subsequent conversion of such habitats to other land uses such as plant commodity crops,” for things like palm oil, said the study’s co-author Mark Rayan, a field biologist for the WWF’s tiger conservation program in Malaysia.
The study estimated that there are 2.6 adult tigers per 38.6 square miles (100 square kilometers) of the forest, which has undergone partial logging since the 1970s. Tigers are not often seen by humans in Malaysian forests.