Ecotourists May Help Save the Malayan Tiger Say Local Conservationists

CC BY 2.0. Charles Barilleaux

The Malayan tiger is an endangered sub-species that's found in the central part of the Malay Penisula. There are estimated to be only 250 to 340 of these tigers left in the wild, as populations have declined over the past century due to habitat loss and poaching. The Malaysian government hopes to restore the tiger population to 1,000 animals in the wild by 2020.

A program called MYCAT, an acronym for Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers, is calling for more ecotourism in the region—to help the tigers. They say that more visitors engaging in low-impact hikes and photography expeditions will deter poachers with their presence. MYCAT is an alliance between the Malaysian Nature Society, WWF-Malaysia and a number of other conservation groups.

Malayan tigers have been considered an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature since 2008, but some scientists are pushing for these tigers to be reclassified as critically endangered. In other words, some think these cats are getting closer to extinction.

Getting more people actively involved in watching for poachers could be key to protecting tigers. “For example, my research found that western Taman Negara lost 85 per cent of [the tiger] population in 11 years because of a lack of active protection,” Dr. Kae Kawanishi told Today. Kawanishi is a biologist and the general manager of MYCAT.

Tigers are poached for their fur and also for use in traditional Chinese medicines. Tiger meat may also be served as an exotic delicacy.

For people in the local area, MYCAT’s volunteer program encourages members of the public to visit poaching hotspots and notify officials via a Wildlife Crime Hotline if they see suspicious activity.