Dead Kings (Op-ed)

Dead kings by Zarif Ismail

Earlier this year the Malaysian government made an expensive symbolic move to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties with China. Named by the Malaysian Prime Minister, the ‘contract’ giant panda Xing Xing and Liang Liang are expected to stay for 10 years. A happy life indeed for the giant pandas.

For the Malayan tiger however, it roams alone overshadowed by the giant panda. Albeit its status as an iconic national animal of Malaysia, it is degraded and humiliated. It only took one year from 500 Malayan tigers to be poached leaving only 100 or maybe less behind. It is ignored to the brink of extinction.

Save. Our. Tigers.

The Malayan tiger is a unique subspecies in the Malay Peninsula. There are three priority areas of its habitat which are Belum-Temengor Forest Complex, Taman Negara and the Endau-Rompin Forest Complex. To some however these are not only areas for tigers and other wildlife to dwell, they are cash cow landscapes for poachers.

The Belum-Temengor Forest complex is where the border between Malaysia and Thailand lies. At the moment it has become a flexible gateway for international poachers from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to enter and exit Malaysia without any hassle. Kill a tiger in Malaysia, and they are on their way home to make money. These tigers then are reduced into products ranging from luxurious items to ‘asian viagras’ sold within mainly the South East Asia market.

The amount of poachers crossing borders irregularly is a serious issue that needs to be solved immediately. As for the previous years, 114 tiger traps were discovered and destroyed just within the period of 12 months and in certain cases they also spend long period of time in the forest. While tiger is the forefront issue here, national security too is nevertheless at stake considering the illicit activities that could have taken place due to such loose or almost no regulation on border crossing.

The total amount of the loan for the giant panda is approximately USD 10 million just for its maintenance. Recently, another project was announced which is a plan to build a tiger valley with an open zoo concept costing about USD 13 million. The key question here is, why not allocate such amount to save the tigers in the wild and start from there?

The tiger’s future is bleak. From each corner death lurks in the form of poachers, road developments and insufficient preys. Without rangers to patrol the forest ensuring that any poaching activities are not taking place, that is death to the tiger. Without proper planning on road developments that affect the tigers’ habitat, that is death to the tiger. Without sufficient prey for the tiger to sustain its diet, that is death to the tiger.

With sufficient budget allocated for wild tiger conservation the government is actually winning big by just saving a single species. Tigers are ecosystem engineers as they are top in the food chain which means their population regulates the ecosystem. In order for this to take place however requires the government’s initiative to ensure that the tiger habitats are safe for both the tiger and its prey as well as ensuring road development projects adhered to the rules and regulations.

After the 2010 St. Petersburg ‘Tiger Summit’, by 2022 the agreement was to double the number of wild tigers in tiger range countries governments. While there is only seven years left, only Nepal, India and Russia have been carrying out regular tiger census out of the 12 countries involved. Better late than never is probably the best attitude to adopt for Malaysia to conduct it’s own tiger survey as soon as possible.

To some countries tiger census is usually a difficult task to implement. Firstly it is difficult in terms of financially and labor as the process is demanding. Secondly, it puts the government in a difficult situation if it publishes a poor number of wild tigers. In Malaysia’s case for example, it would even be more embarrassing that it’s national animal is going downhill just like its national football team.

Tiger census is nevertheless a bold start. Pursuing tiger conservation will be a challenging task without having the knowledge of how many wild tigers available. Tiger survey is not just about knowing the number of wild tigers as it also provides information of the tiger’s movement. Each tiger has a unique pattern of stripes like the human fingerprint which makes it easier to identify and study each one of them for protection and research.

Malayan tiger is Malaysia’s national pride, thus it is Malaysia’s responsibility.

The tiger is used as a symbol ranging from Malaysia’s coat of arms, to its leading football team Harimau Malaya or Malayan Tiger. The reason being is not a coincidence but a bold statement that the country wants to be seen as. A brave, courageous and strong nation that was once grouped in the tiger cub economic countries, metamorphosing itself joining the asian tiger countries. The extinction of the Malaya tiger is a mark of disgrace for Malaysia’s inability to protect the ‘king’ in its own kingdom.

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