New research supports role of selectively logged forests in conserving tigers in Malaysia

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New research supports role of selectively logged forests in conserving tigers in Malaysia

13 Mar 2009

Research conducted by WWF shows that selectively logged forests may be able to support high population of tigers in Malaysia, and can therefore complement the role of protected areas for tiger conservation.

A nine-month camera-trapping survey in a forest reserve in Kelantan, Malaysia revealed that selectively logged forests can accommodate a high population density of tigers, according to a research article published in the conservation journal Oryx.

Selective logging is a forestry practice that aims to better conserve forest areas by only cutting a select number of trees in a stand instead of the whole stand at once.

Researchers carried out the survey in a forest reserve which has been selectively logged since the 1970s. Using camera traps, they obtained a tiger density estimate of 2.59 adult tigers per 100 km².

“Although the study illustrates the potential of selectively logged forests to accommodate a high population density of tigers, the long term response of tigers and other wildlife particularly arboreal animals to disturbances from logging remains poorly understood” said Mark Rayan, field biologist for WWF-Malaysia’s Tiger Conservation Programme and the article’s lead author.

“Our results demonstrate the conservation importance of existing logged over forests and the need to halt subsequent fragmentation and conversion of such habitats to other land uses such as plant commodity crops,” Rayan said. “Existing selectively logged forests may also serve as important core tiger habitats as subsequent camera-trapping in the study area provided photographic evidence of breeding success,” he added.

Selectively logged forests are an integral part of habitat management for tigers as outlined in the National Tiger Action Plan for Malaysia, said Nawayai Yasak, the Department of Wildlife and National Park’s (DWNP) Biodiversity Conservation Director,

“These areas are identified as important tiger habitats due to their sheer size as well as being a major component of Malaysia’s Central Forest Spine,” Yasak said. “DWNP will continue to work with the Forestry Department and support the activities of NGOs in efforts towards conserving Malayan tigers, both in terms of population numbers and health,” .

Apart from a study conducted in a primary forest in Taman Negara National Park between 1999 and 2001, there have been no other robust density estimates of tigers in other forest types in Malaysia. With almost 85 percent of confirmed tiger habitats located within reserve forests, these habitats are critical towards the long term survival of tigers in Peninsular Malaysia.

“There is clearly a need to enhance management guidelines for selectively logged forests,” said Dato’ Dr. Dionysius Sharma, CEO of WWF-Malaysia. “With adequate enforcement and monitoring, these habitats will not only provide long-term economic and environmental benefits, but also enable tigers to proliferate in order to reach Malaysia’s target of 1000 wild individuals by 2020.”

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