Happy New Year, everyone!
We start off the year with a timely message and news about the urgent need for tiger conservation in our country.
Braving bloodsucking leeches and the blazing Malaysian sun, four volunteers trudge along the heavily forested Marcus trail in Malaysia’s Sungai Yu ecological corridor, which plays a crucial role in connecting the two largest forested landscapes in the country – the Titiwangsa mountains and the 130-million-year-old Taman Negara rainforest, the largest national park in the country.
The trek is part of a boots-on-the-ground initiative called the Cat Walk, which engages volunteers in anti-poaching patrols and reforestation work for the conservation of the Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni), a sub-species found only in the forests of Peninsular Malaysia.
Since 2015, the IUCN has listed the Malayan tiger as critically endangered. “Results of the national tiger survey, which were shared publicly in 2022, revealed there were fewer than 150 Malayan tigers in the wild,” says Dr Kae Kawanishi, head of conservation at the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat). “These are scattered over large and increasingly fragmented forest complexes across the Malaysian peninsula.”
Launched in 2010 by Mycat, an alliance of several Malaysian conservation NGOs, and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Peninsular Malaysia to address the severe shortage of forest guards and rangers, the Cat (Citizen Action for Tigers) Walk has seen more than 2,500 volunteers from 38 countries participate. “This is possibly the only programme in the world where people can get involved with tiger conservation on the ground and make a real difference,” says Muna Noor, who leads the initiative.
Cat Walks are held most weekends for local volunteers and at least once a month for those coming from overseas, with a maximum of eight people on a walk.
More from the article:
Since the start of the Cat Walks, Batek men have begun to work as guides. Adi, who goes by a single name, is one of them. “I love bringing people into the forest and telling them about it,” he says in the Batek language. The Bateks share a close relationship with nature, and Adi views himself and his people as an extension of the forest.
“Sadly, the forest is being pushed towards more and more development,” he says. He talks about the forest being “open and bright”, indicative of the continuing deforestation in some parts, and is worried that the shrinking forest will push his community and the animals that live there into a conflict situation.
We need hope and effort:
Despite the seemingly bleak outlook for the Malayan tiger, Kawanishi remains hopeful. “Keeping the corridor safe by working with the local community and reconnecting the public to nature through the Cat Walk programme offers the Malayan tiger a fighting chance of surviving into the next decade,” she says.