December 22, 2008

Malaysia To Double Wild Tiger Population

Malaysia announced on Monday it plans to step up protections for wild tigers through its new National Tiger Action Plan.

The new plan will seek to double the population of Malayan tigers from 500 to 1,000 by 2020, according to Sara Sukor, a spokeswoman for Malaysia's chapter of the World Wildlife Fund, one of several conservation groups that helped the government create the plan.

The 12-year plan was developed through a partnership of the Malaysian Nature Society, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society and WWF-Malaysia.

"While this Plan is aimed at primarily saving the Malayan tiger, it will support our broader national conservation priorities through cross-sectoral issues, and bringing them together to a planned and strategic approach for implementation," said Dr Loh Chi Leong, MNS Executive Director.

The plan lays out specific ways to secure key forests areas in landscapes connected with corridors as well as provide long-term on-the-ground protection of tigers and their prey, according to a joint statement. It prioritizes three core areas, namely the Belum-Temengor Complex, the Greater Taman Negara Complex and the Endau-Rompin Complex.

Numbers of Malayan tigers have dropped in Malaysia from 3,000 to 500 in the past half-century mostly because of illegal hunting and the human encroachment.

Tiger meat is exported, served at exotic restaurants and used in traditional Chinese medicine, however this is considered to be illegal under Malaysian law.

Dr. Melvin Gumal, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society said the plan will be successful if everyone participates and each step is well-implemented.

One of the main challenges, however, is the implementation at the State level, as the Plan is still a Federal policy document. This is where a process of socialization is critical, to adequately engage State-level stakeholders, they said in a statement.

"A well coordinated effort between agencies at both the state and federal level, with non-governmental agencies, is necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the Plan", says Azrina Abdullah, Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

Under the plan, the government has also vowed to better enforce its wildlife laws, remove tigers from areas where they might come into conflict with humans and boost scientific research in tiger protection, said the WWF spokeswoman Sukor.

"We are optimistic the plan will succeed with cooperation among all the agencies involved," Sukor said. "We want to show that we are serious about wildlife protection."

Image Courtesy Wikipedia


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