MYCAT project update, Ashleigh Kivilaakso Seow – August 2014
In our last blog we spoke about the increase in sambar signs. With sambar being an important tiger prey, this encouraged us. Throughout Malaysia, sambar is in a grave state due to over exploitation. MYCAT has been pushing for better legal protection of the sambar since 2008 – the year that the Tiger Action Plan was launched.
Although the deer is faring well in some protected forests in India, if ours is a different subspecies as suggested by taxonomists, then it qualifies for an endangered status in the IUCN Red List. CAT Walks protect both sambar and tigers from deadly snares in the last forest corridor between the two largest tiger landscapes in Malaysia.
By September this year we have deactivated about 20 snares, much less than the three figure numbers seen at the beginning of the CAT project. The credit for this reduction goes to our dedicated volunteer CAT Walkers and leaders who we depend on to run the anti-poaching walks. Putting in over 500 kilometres of walks and about the same number of volunteer days, so far this effort far exceeds what the authorities are able to do in the Sungai Yu Tiger Corridor with their limited man power.
Information on illegal activities gleaned on these walks have led to enforcement action by the authorities and local poachers are now wary of entering the forests. In the words of local Batek who sometimes guide the walks, “since MYCAT came the poachers have moved further away”.
CAT Walkers come from 24 countries. One of them, Alex, hails from Devon, UK. A forestry graduate, he is a rock climber, an arborist and is very much at home in the rainforest. An experienced outdoorsman he travelled solo across Europe and Asia, camping in wild places like Mongolia and Yunnan before arriving here in 2013 when he volunteered with MYCAT. Finding the climbing and forests, not to mention food, to his taste, he opted to remain in Malaysia while doing side trips to the rest of Southeast Asia.
The key to leading groups from all walks of life for CAT Walks is not just self-reliance but also people skills. He has been enthusiastically adopted by the local Batek tribe who support tiger conservation. Working with the local Batek women on a community project to teach urban people the hunter-gatherer life, he enables volunteers go on foraging walks while also looking for wildlife and poaching signs.
On one trip we smelt something, and upon searching found the body of a sambar. It had been eaten from the hindquarters forward. The stench was terrible, but everyone couldn’t help peeking into the decomposing carcass. The three main predators in Malaysia’s jungles are tigers, leopards and dholes but leopards are small, less than 40 kg. An examination showed the neck had been broken, not bent back but the head rotated 180 degrees. This place was about 300 metres from a tiger sighting last year. We concluded that a tiger was here.
It is a bit of a dilemma when a critically endangered wildlife kills another endangered animal and sambar breed slower than tigers. There needs to be a lot more sambar here for tigers to increase.
Alex set a remote camera to see if a tiger would return to his unfinished venison feast. Soon we will check the camera to find out and let you know.
You can read more about the MYCAT project Citizen Action for Tigers here