Tiger rescue points to urgent need for more patrols
Posted on 05 October 2009
Kuala Lumpur – The rescue of a tiger from a snare set by poachers near the Gerik-Jeli highway yesterday should set alarm bells ringing for the remaining wild tigers in the Belum-Temengor forests, one of the last strongholds for this species and other mammals in Malaysia.
The five-year-old male tiger was freed from its snare by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) officers after it was discovered late yesterday by WWF’s Wildlife Protection Unit (WPU), which conducts regular patrols together with PERHILITAN in the area. The tiger has been taken to the Malacca Zoo for treatment.
The WPU rangers on a routine patrol had earlier detected two men on motorcycles near the site who fled when they saw the WPU rangers approach. When rangers returned to check the area, they found the tiger with its front right paw caught in a snare.
The snare had been set on a ridge in a forested area near the Perak-Kelantan border, not too far from the highway.
The Belum-Temengor forest complex is one of three priority areas identified in the National Tiger Action Plan. It is also part of an area of global priority for Tiger conservation. Yet it is highly vulnerable to encroachment and poaching due to its proximity to the porous Malaysia-Thai border and among the most easily accessible because of the 80-km long Gerik-Jeli highway that cuts across the landscape, providing hundreds of easy entry points for poachers.
Apart from the PERHILITAN-WPU joint patrols, this vast and wildlife-rich forest complex and its highway are not systematically or thoroughly patrolled, making it an open target for poachers.
In the past year alone, PERHILITAN and the WPU have also recorded numerous encroachers in Perak’s jungles, particularly near the Belum-Temengor area, with the most recent incident in August, when a Thai national was caught by the police with pangolin scales and agarwood in the forest near the highway.
PERHILITAN, Police and the WPU have worked together to remove 101 snares and arrest 10 poachers in the last nine months. But there is a need for other government agencies to join in this difficult fight against wildlife crime.
Research carried out in the area by WWF and TRAFFIC has indicated that the rescued tiger is very likely just one of many that have been poached in the area. Illegal hunting in the Belum-Temengor area is rampant and the demand for tigers continues to drive criminals into the forest to kill the remaining ones.
“If the WPU rangers had not spotted the suspected poachers the story might have been very different for that tiger. We were lucky this time. Who knows how many tigers we have already lost?” said Dato’ Dr. Dionysius Sharma, CEO of WWF-Malaysia.
“This incident clearly demonstrates the need for a stronger enforcement presence in the Belum-Temengor area. If this isn’t enough of a clarion call for the government to afford more resources to form an anti-poaching Task Force, I don’t know what is,” he added.
The official estimate of the wild tigers in Peninsular Malaysia is only 500, a sharp decline from 3000 estimated in the 1950s, explained wildlife biologist Dr Kae Kawanishi.
“Snares kill indiscriminately. This illegal act of cruelty should be condemned by the whole society. Despite the harsh penalty imposed by the law, it has been a major problem to wildlife throughout the country,” said Kae a member of the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers Secretariat.
“In order for the Malaysia to realize the goal of the National Tiger Action Plan, which is to double the number of wild tigers in the country by the year 2020, poaching cannot be tolerated,” she added.
“At the rate tigers are being killed throughout their entire range, they do not stand a chance, but here in Malaysia, there is still hope of saving tigers. It will mean increasing enforcement efforts to protect crucial strongholds such as the Belum-Temengor complex and coming down hard on poachers,” said Chris R. Shepherd, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia’s Regional Acting Director.
“These poachers are criminals, and are robbing the world of one of the most amazing species to have ever walked the earth”, he said.
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