Malayan Tiger: The Endangered Species

Kavitha Manimaharan

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


The Majestic Tiger. Photo taken by: Kavitha Manimaharan
The Majestic Tiger. Photo was taken by Kavitha Manimaharan

“Harimau Malaya” or in English is known as the Malayan tiger is a small sized subspecies of tiger that can be widely found in the peninsular of Malaysia and in some part of Thailand. They are so beautiful and graceful, a true gift from Mother Nature. Their gorgeous orange eyes and big round paws and shimmering fur are just amazing. Apart from being the greatest creation of nature, they  are also the pride of Malaysia as they are even featured in the coat of arms of Malaysia. The Malaysia football national team are called ” Harimau Malaya”. The Malaysian national bank,  Maybank features Malayan Tiger as the logo. The once a pride of the nation is now facing a major threat. Back in the 50s in Malaysia, it was estimated that there were as many as 3,000 Malayan tigers in the wild. However, now the Malayan Tiger population has declined to an official estimation of 250 – 340  which is the lowest it has been in the last 100 years.

So what has caused this massive decline in Malayan Tigers in Malaysian rain forest? The prime  reason is hunting of tigers. Hunting is the biggest cause of the decline of not just the Malayan tigers but tigers worldwide. In Malaysia, tigers are hunted for the use of  medication. This maybe surprising, but now there are probably more tigers on the shelves of pharmacies and medicine stores in Malaysia than in forests, as tigers are widely hunted  for us in traditional Chinese medicine. For more than 1,000 years the use of tiger parts has been included in the traditional Chinese medicine regimens. This is because ancient Chinese culture believes that tigers have medicinal qualities because of the tiger’s strength and mythical power hence every part of the tiger is used to cure diseases. For example, their teeth are believed to be  bits of help to treat chronic ailments and cure high fever. Even their whiskers are used to cure toothaches. Tiger bones are believed to contain high medicinal properties and are popular on the black market. Some even consume tiger meat as they think it would  cure disease and replenish the body’s essential energy. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove this claim.

malaysia-deforestation-rate. Taken from:
Malaysia-deforestation-rate. Taken from:

Animal poaching and illegal tradings are the other two reasons why tigers are endangered in Malaysia and across the globe. This happens simply because of the greediness of some and the ignorance of others.  Malayan tigers are poached due to the high demand for products made from tiger parts. A key aspect of tiger product demand is that the wealth of the buyer which tends to drive the demand, rather than the poverty of the sellers and traders. According to Walker’s World of the Mammals, tiger skin could sell for about $16,880.  According to the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Networks (TRAFFIC) , Malayan Tigers products are used for a wide variety of purposes and it is also seen as a status symbol across many parts of Asia. Another key factor, to decline in Malayan Tiger population is deforestation. Malaysia is the home to one of  biggest and richest rain forest in the world which is the Borneo forest. However, which the heights of globalization and industrialization most of the precious forests in Malaysia are chopped down to build houses, malls and so on. According to Global Forest Map, Malaysia has the world’s largest deforestation rate . Last year alone,  47,278 square kilometers which are equivalent to 18,244 square miles  an area larger than Denmark was chopped down. This directly affects wildlife as the forest is the home. So, loss of habitat and lack of food contributes to the lack of tigers in Malaysian rain forest.

Malayan Tiger sleeping. Photo taken by : Kavitha Manimaharan
Malayan Tiger sleeping. Photo was taken by Kavitha Manimaharan

Many would think this is not a significant issue and just tend to not care but people have to understand we need to protect tigers not just for their good but also for ours. You may ask how is protecting tigers is going help us? Let me tell you there is a million reason and just to point out some, tigers are vicious predator which is at the apex of the food chain. When the population of animal on top of the food chain such as tigers is dwindling that is a clear sign that the ecosystem is in jeopardy. First of all, what is the ecosystem? The ecosystem is where living creature interacts with non-living components to create a system. Imbalance ecosystem will result in disaster. Everything from water consumption to carbon emission will be messed up. For example, if the tigers’ population decrease, its prey’s such as goats population will increase, when the prey’s population increase the plants in the rain forest will decrease and the source of oxygen for humans will decrease. See how the ecosystem works. We all depend on each other and have to support each other to balance out the world. Therefore, the presence of tigers in Malaysian forest is an indicator of the well-being of the ecosystem. The extinction of this top predator is an indication that its ecosystem is not sufficiently protected, and neither would it exist for long thereafter.

In Malaysia, the Malayan tigers are needlessly killed for their skin, meat and so on. These actions are illegal even from a religion perspective regardless of which religion we preach to, the answer towards illegal hunting and animal abuse is the same which is do not do it. One of the forgotten “Sunnah” (way of life) of the Prophet Muhammad is show compassion to all beings, not just human beings. In Hinduism and Buddhism  animals are believed to have a soul and killing them is nothing less than killing a human in terms of karmic consequences. In Christianity, the proverbs 12:10 says , “A righteous man cares about his animal’s health.” So, all religion are against the idea of animal cruelty  and even if you do not believe in God, treating animals this way is just not right because it is never right to use one’s vulnerability to your own advantage.

 Malayan Tigers in a conservation center. Photo Taken by Kavitha Manimaharan
Malayan Tigers in a conservation center. Photo Taken by Kavitha Manimaharan

Saving tigers are not only a noble environmental initiative but also one with positive economic implications. Tigers can directly help the economy of a country. How? Through eco-tourism. Eco-tourism is a tour directed towards animals and natural environment. For example, conversation centers and reserved forests are meant for eco-tourism where the funds collected from these sites will be used to support the good beings of the wildlife there. In Malaysia, there are a couple of tiger conservations and research centers for example in Kenyir Lake Park in Terengganu, Royal Belum State Park in Perak and Taman Negara in Pahang. Apart from the money, protecting tigers is also  vital to the progression of nation and society as we do not just want to be economically and politically developed but also morally developed. Moral progression of a nation should be prioritized in order to shape a well-balanced society. Mahatma Gandhi has once said, ” the moral progression of a nation can be seen by the way its animals are treated”. The forth and seventh challenges in Vision 2020   states  the importance for Malaysia to have a fully moral, ethical and caring society. Hence it is the responsibility of every citizen to come together to stand up for tigers.

So, what are the actions taken to help tigers? Currently, many tiger research centers and conservation centers are opened up in Malaysia. Plus, the government has reduced human-wildlife conflict through better livestock management by helping farmers build more secure cattle sheds,  significantly reduced human tigers encounters. The national government has come up with  numerous laws which protect animals right and is against animal cruelty. The government  has also started to develop wildlife corridors to maintain connectivity between forest areas with the construction of roads. Education efforts have also been implemented which includes comic books describing how to avoid human-tiger conflict and in schools and colleges, students are taught the importance of preserving our flora and fauna. Though there are initiatives taken to put a stop to it but there is certainly a long way to go and the only way we can put a stop to this is by standing together against it. Do spread words around and help tigers. They have no voice so we shall be their voice.


If you wish to help and join in the action to save tigers, simply click the link below where you can adopt a tiger or donate.


/ 11 Articles

Kavitha Manimaharan