Since 2010, Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) have run a community engagement project, Citizen Action for Tigers, in an 11km Corridor between Taman Negara and the Main Range in Kuala Lipis district, Pahang.
The Malayan tiger is in a precarious state with possibly less that 300 individuals left. The single most important driver of the rapid population decline in the past century has been poaching of tigers and their main principal prey species such as the sambar deer and wild boar.
In a country where 45% of the land is forested and 80% of that is either forest reserves or protected areas, population recovery primarily depends upon the cessation of poaching before the declining population is pushed beyond the threshold.
MYCAT’s recent research shows that the tiger population has drastically declined in the area, and it identified the locations of poaching hotpots and illegal access routes to the western park through an adjacent wildlife corridor. Despite being a priority area for tiger conservation, park rangers cannot patrol the area regularly enough to protect wildlife from poachers due to a lack of manpower. This situation has worsened in the past decade due to the disbandment of Rhino Protection Units that used to patrol the park regularly.
The project site is a priority wildlife corridor for Taman Negara and is the last linkage connecting the two largest tiger landscapes in Peninsular Malaysia. It is an 11km stretch of forests surrounding Yu River immediately west of Taman Negara. The corridor is bisected by a highway that further increases the poachers’ accessibility to the park.
Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT) involves citizen conservationists protecting this important tiger habitat. While enjoying recreational activities in a wilderness setting, the volunteers deter poaching with “boots on the ground”, save wildlife by removing snares, and support law enforcement by becoming the “eyes and ears”.
Any relevant information on suspected illegal activities is sent to MYCAT’s Wildlife Crime Hotline and MYCAT relays the information to the park authorities. CAT activities range from weekend walks in the corridor when poachers are most active and park rangers are stretched thin, to week-long trips by volunteers assisting park rangers in border maintenance and surveillance. The routes are determined based on findings from the research or new information from Taman Negara staff.
During 2013 third party funding for CAT Walks was not forthcoming. Therefore the project only ran for half of the time, and the results for this period are covered in this one report.
This report shows a reduction of poaching activity in the corridor. This suggests that while there are still some threats to wildlife, these have reduced over time and will continue decreasing while there is a citizen wildlife watch as deterrent in the corridor. There are signs of the return of sambar deer, gaur and elephant to the area.
A total of 40 CAT Walks were conducted, covering 235km in the Corridor. Altogether, 11 incidences of threats against wildlife were recorded by volunteers and nine were reported to the Wildlife Crime Hotline. There is a steady reduction in the number of threats to wildlife encountered. This supports the project’s basic premise that the presence and intervention of volunteer conservationists at poaching hotspots can suppress poaching activity to levels where wildlife have an opportunity to recover.
CAT’s continuous presence in the Corridor has resulted in the gradual reduction of poaching, deforestation and encroachment, and the effective protection of endangered wildlife in this critical habitat. In 2015, after five years of protection from CAT, we are seeing amazing signs of wildlife recovery. While we are unable to disclose details, this underscores the importance of public participation in tiger conservation.