WWF-MALAYSIA refers to the recent news “Hope Remains for Siberian Tigers” of the Siberian tiger cubs born in the Lost World of Tambun Sunway City.
The three new tiger cubs are the third generation born since they started breeding Siberian tigers in 2004. The birth of the cubs, according to the article, appears to bring hope for the conservation of Siberian tigers and they are being displayed to the public every day for half an hour for educational purposes.
The park is looking into rehabilitating the tigers once they have reached adulthood.
WWF-Malaysia supports educational and awareness-raising programmes using captive populations of endangered wildlife. These programmes, when designed properly, have far reaching impact on the public in understanding the ecology and plight of the endangered species.
However, breeding and rehabilitation of endangered species, especially of large carnivores such as the tiger, need to be based on organised and scientifically-controlled management.
Such conservation breeding should be part of a holistic species survival plan that includes in-situ research of the needs and feasibility of releasing the captive-born animals back into the wild.
While zoos and theme parks are a good avenue for conservation education, very few tigers are needed for this purpose. Tigers live 10 to 15 years in captivity, and for the display purposes only, it is not necessary to breed them year after year.
Specific awareness activities need to be developed as well to explain and educate the public on tiger conservation.
Educational signage, awareness-raising talks and support towards in-situ conservation in terms of research and funds are examples of activities that could be carried out by zoos and theme parks.
Although there are benefits to captive-breeding of tigers, such as having a gene pool for tigers, it does not contribute significantly to the conservation of tigers in the wild.
The possibility of releasing captive-bred tigers in the wild itself is small. These captive-born tigers will face great difficulties in surviving in the wild as they would have lost most of their instincts and hunting skills that need to be taught by their mother when they were cubs.
Finding a location to release these tigers would be another challenge as these areas must have adequate food resources and must offer very little opportunity for the tigers to come in contact with humans.
Furthermore, captive-bred tigers put back into the wild could be easily poached due to their lack of fear of humans.
In Malaysia, efforts to conserve wild tiger populations are still important. The National Tiger Action Plan, developed by the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat), provides a platform for streamlining tiger conservation efforts and knowledge within its five partners.
It outlines specific activities for the next eight years in saving wild tigers in Malaysia, and as such, does not include management issues relating to captive tigers.
With adequate protection of habitat and prey, coupled with enforcement of existing laws, there will be greater hope for the survival of Malaysia’s last 500 wild tigers.
Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma,
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