*A story written by Daniel Quilter, co-founder of Fuze Ecoteer*
In 2014 Perhilitan and MYCAT announced that there were only 250-340 wild Malayan Tigers left in Malaysia. That number is very small when you consider the size of Peninsular Malaysia: how will these 340 tigers meet to reproduce for the next generation of rainforest guardians? You can see the image of the Malayan Tiger everywhere in Malaysia, with its strength and beauty it can’t be anything else but the national animal. Tigers can be found on the chest of all the national football teams and even on the front of the national car, Proton.
Recently though, tigers have been in the Malaysian press a lot. Unfortunately for bad and sad reasons. In the months of January and February 2016 two tigers were found dead whilst being traded for their parts, one was accidentally caught in a wild boar trap set by a local person and one, most upsetting a mother carrying two unborn cubs, was hit by a car and killed on a newly opened highway. That is six tigers lost in just 60 days! The future doesn’t look that good for the majestic Malayan Tiger…
Tigers, if left alone, will reproduce relatively quickly. Their keen sense of smell allows males to efficiently find receptive females, so if they are left alone there is hope. If we can focus on reducing the human impacts causing the tiger populations to decline, nature will do the rest.
India is a great example of bringing tigers back from the brink; they have shown how conservation and tourism can play hand in hand and really benefit one another. The Indian tiger tourism industry is based around six main tiger reserves, so the chance to see tigers in the wild draw large numbers of tourists, calculated at over 2 million tourists per year. These tourists pay entrance fees, pay for accommodation and food and when this is all added up, tiger tourism at these parks is estimated to generate over US$850 million every year.
So can this happen in Malaysia?
The initial answer people normally say is ‘no’, however: yes I would agree that tiger tourism will never be as popular in Malaysia as it is in India. The reason being is that the Malayan Tigers live in dense rainforests where they are not used to humans. Even if you were to venture too close to one then the chances of spotting it is very slim due to their amazing camouflage. So on face value you would say no.
However, tiger tourism is starting in Malaysia. Slowly, but it’s starting. Groups such as MYCAT and also Fuze Ecoteer itself are proving that tiger tourism is possible in Malaysia, though be it at present on a small scale. MYCAT through their CAT Walk programme and Fuze Ecoteer through our Tiger Trail project give the everyday person the chance to join poacher surveillance walks.
Patrols are essentially jungle trekking with a purpose and are focused on areas of high wildlife and poacher activity densities. The walks are more conservation than tourist focused and are along trails which are not used by many people. During these walks the participants look for animal tracks as well as signs of human encroachment, where after they then report anything found to the local authorities. These walks at present could easily be replicated at other areas where Malayan tigers and poachers are known to roam. For the less able and less adventurous tourists even 4×4 trucks can be used to provide extra comfort and protection, since the larger animals and poachers use old logging trails as well. The revenue generated can then fund more patrols. For example for every patrol the Fuze Ecoteer tourists join, the programme fees fund another patrol when tourists are not present. So tourism is in affect funding increased patrols. Yes, there are no powers so arrests etc. cannot be made. But the reports are made, which allows for authorized government officials to go on focused patrols. The tourists do enjoy it as they are going on purposeful holidays, which is a growing niche out of the voluntourism and gap year boom. Tourists want that extra connection, which these programmes provide. If this was scaled up, sensibly and with conservation at the core, then several similar programmes could be established across Malaysia: facilitating more eyes and ears to be in the forests deterring poachers and giving the Malayan Tiger and her friends a chance of survival.
Tourists can really play a part to help save the tigers of Malaysia, so join the fight now!
If you want to help Malayan Tigers then
- First off, please sign this petition started by MYCAT: they are campaigning to ensure the recently caught tiger part traders are given suitable punishments. Please share widely.
- You can donate to our poacher surveillance walk fund which will be used 100% to fund more patrols across Malaysia. Rm100 or GBP18 will fund 1 day – please donate here.
- Or if you want to get your feet dirty and join us in the forests then please join one of our programmes:
or the CAT Walk programme
MYCAT – http://malayantiger.net
Tour Operators for Tigers – http://toftigers.org/toft/tourism-and-conservation