Malayan tiger rescued from poacher's snare proves need for increased enforcement

Jeremy Hance
October 13, 2009

Last week a Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) was found with its front right paw caught in a snare set by poachers. World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Wildlife Protection Unit discovered the snared tiger in the Belum-Temengor forest, a wildlife-rich reserve that has become a hotspot for poaching.

After finding the wounded tiger the anti-poaching team called in officials from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) who freed the great cat. The animal was then transported to Malacca Zoo for treatment.

Top: the snared tiger. Bottom: wounded paw caught in the snare. Photos by 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," said Dato’ Dr. Dionysius Sharma, CEO of WWF-Malaysia. "We were lucky this time. Who knows how many tigers we have already lost?"

Malaysia has set up a National Tiger Action Plan to double its number of animals within 10 years. The plan has set aside the Belum-Temengor forest as one of three priority conservation regions for the Malayan tiger, one of seven remaining subspecies of tiger. An estimated 500 Malayan tigers survive on peninsular Malaysia, an 83 percent plunge from a population estimate conducted in the 1950s.

Belum-Temengor forest is a reserve under attack. Cut by the busy Gerik-Jeli highway, the ecosystem is easily accessible to poachers. Apart from patrols performed in collaboration with PERHILITAN and WWF's Wildlife Protection Unit, the forest is largely unguarded. The patrols have found 101 snares alone in the past nine months and arrested 10 poachers. The poachers involved in this incident, however, escaped on motorbikes. Local conservation groups are calling for more help from the government to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, which has left forests empty across South East Asia.

Top: cutting the tiger loose. Bottom: readying the animal for transport. Photos by WWF-Malaysia.
"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 wildlife biologist Dr Kae Kawanishi 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."

The tiger is the world’s largest feline. Listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the species has been devastated over the past century due to mostly poaching and habitat loss. large-scale logging and conversion of tropical forests to agriculture, such as palm oil in Malaysia, has increasingly shrunken the areas suitable for tigers. In addition, while hunting tigers as a sport was popular at one time, today tigers are killed for the black market in Chinese traditional medicine. The trade has spiraled so out of control that in August a group of poachers broke into Jambi Zoo in broad daylight in Indonesia; they drugged the resident tiger, skinned her alive and got away with her body parts to sell.

“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."

Three subspecies of tiger vanished in the 20th Century: the Javan, the Balinese, and the Caspian tiger. Today the South China (Panthera tigris amoyensis) tiger is the most endangered subspecies. While likely gone from the wild, there are plans to breed and reintroduce the subspecies from the remaining 60 or so captive individuals.

The tiger later died from injuries: >Tiger rescued from poachers in Malaysia perishes from injuries.

Video of the rescue, courtesy of WWF-Malaysia:

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (October 13, 2009).

Malayan tiger rescued from poacher's snare proves need for increased enforcement.