Published by New Straits Times
KUALA LUMPUR: All Malaysians should stand up to conserve the Malayan tiger, all the more as it is our national symbol and a key part the federation’s emblem, said a philanthropist.
Petra Group chairman and chief executive Datuk Vinod Sekhar said Malaysians of all levels ought to take stock with more concerted efforts.
“If we are not shocked, we should be ashamed or embarrassed for not doing enough to conserve the dying breed.
“As this year is the lunar ‘Year of The Tiger’, it is a poignant reminder that there is a lot more to be done to save the Malayan tiger. The tiger symbolises courage and strength.
“Tigers are our national icon, the symbol of Malaysian pride. Unfortunately, looking at what is happening around us, the extinction of the Malayan tiger will happen sooner than we realise.
“It is time we wake up to the reality of the situation,” said Vinod at a joint media event between the Vinod Sekhar Foundation and the Tiger Protection Society of Malaysia (Rimau).
Present at the event, held in conjunction with World Wildlife Day today, were Rimau president Lara Ariffin and vice-president David Mizan Hashim.
“We intend to reverse this because failure is unacceptable. I hope that with our support and that of other organisations and corporations, these majestic beings will multiply in numbers and roar again.
“Sticking our heads in the sand pretending nothing is wrong is no longer an option. In this respect, corporations have a key role to play” said Vinod, pledging another RM1 million from the foundation for the conservation effort.
He added that one of the key things that attracted them to the project that Rimau had in saving the tigers was that they also provided opportunities for the orang asli villages involved, to have jobs that maintained their dignity and their culture.
The Malayan tiger, found only in Peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand, is its own subspecies.
In the 1950s, it was estimated that 3,000 roamed our rainforests but the latest National Tiger Survey results indicate that there are less than 150 left in the wild.
“While the loss of habitat has contributed to the decreasing numbers in the past, the biggest threat to tigers today is poaching. We believe that the best way to save the Malayan tiger is to protect its habitat from poachers,” said Lara.
She said apart from creating awareness of the urgency to save the tigers from poaching, Rimau and the Perak State Parks Corporation has spearheaded the formation of the Menraq Patrol Unit, which is made up entirely of the local indigenous Jahai community.
“The creation of Menraq is to patrol the Royal Belum State Park – to search for and dispose of snares that are detrimental to the Malayan tiger, while providing a livelihood for the local community,” she said.
The Vinod Sekhar Foundation, chaired by Vinod’s wife Datin Winy Sekhar, is one of Rimau’s first major funders, with a donation of RM300,000 which allowed the organisation to begin its efforts for the community patrolling unit.
“The foundation’s funds contribute towards Menraq’s training, equipment, and the wages for the orang asli community.
“It also gets other corporations to come forward and support the cause as the task at hand is monumental,” said Lara.
She added that Menraq, which started with five members in 2019 in Royal Belum, now had 30.
“Rimau also has a new team of 10 patrollers in the Amanjaya Forest Reserve where they are working with the Perak Forestry Department.
“Rimau is also looking for more funding to expand in other areas in Perak and to ensure maximum chance for survival for the Malayan tiger,” she said.
Meanwhile, David said: “While it will take time to bring tiger numbers up to a sustainable level, we believe it is possible through this project in conjunction with the various efforts made by other NGOs and the government.
“If tigers are properly protected, their populations can recover quite quickly. We only have a small window of opportunity to save the Malayan tiger. We need more Malaysians to join in the fight”.