Last week we heard from Jenny who had just returned from a MYCAT walk in the Sungai Yu Tiger Corridor. This week we have a report straight from the field from the MYCAT team in Malaysia detailing how their outreach programme is deterring tiger poachers.
It is invaluable to hear from the local communities how outreach programmes like this make a huge impact on the future survival of tigers.
Threat to wildlife: people who poach. Hope for wildlife: people who care.
In April, the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) returned to Merapoh, the small town nearest to the Sungai Yu Tiger Corridor to conduct our third community outreach programme in the area.
The corridor is an 11 km stretch of forest that joins the two largest tiger habitats in Malaysia. This is vital for the future survival of tigers as it forms the world’s fifth largest tiger landscape. While development remains a threat, the greatest menace is poaching.
MYCAT, together with a team of 18 volunteers from all walks of life, were bringing the conservation message to persuade the community to see the forest and wildlife as a natural heritage resource. But first, we all went on a Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT) Walk to experience first-hand the Sungai Yu forests that we are working to save.
The outreach started in the colourful local night market and our bright yellow booth with its display of wildlife parts and poaching paraphernalia drew crowds, while yellow-clad volunteers fanned out to meet the people.
Interest was high. Despite living next to large tracts of forest, most villagers do not venture into it. They have jobs in small businesses or agricultural enterprises in the town or villages, and spend their recreation time in similar activities to city dwellers. Volunteers spoke to them about the harm done by poaching and urged them to report on wildlife crime (snares; trade in protected species) if they saw it. Many entered the Wildlife Crime Hotline number into their phones. Some also signed up to come on CAT Walks.
Over the next few mornings we visited three schools and conducted experiential learning activities with students of all ages to educate the next generation on conservation. The focus of the activities was on the basic needs of wildlife, the importance of sharing resources and the inter-connectedness of the web of life.
While we hope to change perceptions in the long term, there remains a clear and present danger to wildlife now. CAT Walks are being held almost every weekend to deter poaching by placing citizen conservationists in the corridor. It is also important that outreach and awareness be coupled with strong enforcement of wildlife laws, and MYCAT will continue to support the wildlife authorities in this arena.
On the CAT Walk immediately after the programme, we were gratified not to find any snares and traps but encountered four local men near the Taman Negara National Park border. One of the locals who signed up for CAT Walks at the night market was with us and spoke with them. Rather sheepishly, they admitted they were there to poach fish and then said the water was rather murky for spear fishing and that they were leaving.
A high note concluding our outreach week.