JOHOR BARU, Aug 17 — Thought to number fewer than 200 in the wild, the critically endangered Malayan tiger is being threatened by foreign poachers on home ground.
In a recent Ops Belang, the government’s initiative to protect the dwindling tiger population in its natural habitat, the Johor Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) found traps and abandoned camps in the jungle that point to poachers from Indochinese countries ― judging from the food wrappers, food cans and cigarette wrappers found.
“Our initial investigation showed that many of these poachers come from Indochina countries where some came into Malaysia illegally while others have work permits as they are employed in factories here.
“We know their hotspots. In addition to the camps, we have found many snares around the Panti Forest Reserve and the Endau Rompin National Park during our patrols under Ops Belang,” Johor Perhilitan director Salman Saaban told reporters during a meeting with selected media in his office recently.
Ops Belang is a Perhilitan initiative together with the collaboration from the Johor Forestry Department and the Johor National Parks Corporation.
According to the latest statistics from January to July this year, Perhilitan had uncovered 298 wire snares and 23 illegal camps set by poachers to trap animals, especially tigers, within the jungles in Johor.
Salman said the snares are made from readily available and affordable stuff anyone can get from hardware shops, like wire cables.
He suspects the poachers are being helped by locals who provide them information on certain animals as well as food rations and vehicles like motorcycles to move around while in the jungle.
He deduced that the poachers camp out for one to two weeks each time and do not appear to be using guns but sharp blades that have more uses in the jungle.
“Even though the poachers do not rely on firearms, they are considered dangerous as they usually carry machetes and axes in their hunts,” said Salman.
He added that Perhilitan has reasons to believe the poachers are targeting specific animals in the Malaysian jungles; its officers come across whole carcasses such as wild boar, mouse deer and even the goat-like antelope serow.
The tiger is a prized animal, Salman said. In the black market, one tiger can fetch up to RM100,000, he added.
Many such animals are extinct in Indochina, according to Salman, reinforcing his belief that the poachers hunting down wildlife in the Malay peninsula are from those countries.
“Perhilitan can only take action against these poachers if they were found to be in possession of wildlife or animal parts under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716).
“However, the government’s effort in protecting the wildlife here would receive a major boost with the involvement of the police force that is expected to be part of the wildlife enforcement operation in the near future,” said Salman.
He said that having the police force under the wildlife enforcement operation in future is a good move as more are getting involved to protect wildlife from poachers.
“Protecting our animals does not fall only into Perhilitan’s shoulders but everyone must play their part,” he said, emphasising on the shared responsibility.