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Looming Extinction: Chances for the survival of the Malayan tiger

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6. Looming Extinction: Chances for the survival of the Malayan tiger

In the heart of Malaysia’s lush jungles, a silent struggle for survival is unfolding. The protagonist of this tale is the majestic Malayan tiger, a symbol of national pride and ecological health. However, the narrative that is unfolding is not one of triumph but of impending extinction. The Malayan tiger, a subspecies unique to the Malay Peninsula, faces threats from rampant poaching, dwindling habitats due to deforestation, and a lack of political will towards wildlife conservation. The question on everyone’s lips is, “Will the Malayan Tiger become extinct?”

The Plight of the Malayan Tiger

From a thriving population of 3,000 in the 1950s, the Malayan tiger’s numbers have plummeted to a mere 150 in the wild. This drastic decrease represents a 95% population decline in just over seven decades, painting a grim picture of their prospects. Extinction is not just a possibility but a fast-approaching reality if immediate action is not taken.

The Role of Poaching

One of the primary drivers of the Malayan tiger’s decline is poaching. The illegal wildlife trade, a lucrative industry making approximately $216 billion annually, has targeted these majestic creatures for their bones, meat, and skin. Poaching has decimated the Malayan tiger population by 50% in the last ten years alone. Both local and foreign poachers pose a significant threat, with the latter often working as part of larger wildlife crime syndicates.

The Illicit Wildlife Trade

The wildlife trade not only threatens the survival of the Malayan tiger but also wreaks havoc on ecosystems, economies, and conservation efforts globally. Trafficking of wildlife, fish, and timber is a criminal industry often overlooked due to its covert nature. Tigers are among the most frequently trafficked species, with the demand for tiger parts fueling the poaching crisis. If left unchecked, wildlife crime syndicates could drive many species to extinction or near-extinction status, causing irreversible damage to global biodiversity.

The Impact of Poaching on Ecosystems

Poaching doesn’t just threaten individual species but the entire ecosystems they inhabit. Apex predators like the Malayan tiger play a critical role in maintaining ecological balance. Their loss could lead to an overpopulation of prey species, resulting in overgrazing and habitat degradation. This, in turn, could lead to a cascading effect on other species and vegetation, disrupting the natural balance of the ecosystem. The extinction of the Malayan tiger would, therefore, have far-reaching consequences beyond the loss of a single species.

The Challenge of Deforestation

Deforestation presents another significant challenge to the survival of the Malayan tiger. As forests are cleared for agriculture, logging, and other land uses, the tiger’s habitat shrinks, leading to a reduction in prey and increased human-tiger conflict. Tigers require vast territories to thrive, and the fragmentation of their habitat into smaller, isolated patches inhibits their ability to find mates and reproduce. Deforestation, therefore, not only reduces the tiger’s living space but also their chances of survival.

The survival of the malayan tigerFragmentation of Tiger Habitats

Tiger habitats, once vast and interconnected, have become fragmented due to deforestation. This fragmentation isolates tiger populations, increasing their vulnerability to diseases and inbreeding. It also reduces the chances of tigers repopulating areas where their numbers have declined. Maintaining habitat connectivity is therefore crucial to prevent localised extinction and promote population recovery.  To achieve a contiguous forest where wildlife can thrive, there is a need to reconnect the 3 crucial forest landscapes of Belum-Temengor, Taman Negara and Endau Rompin. Despite decades of research and planning, the progress on the connectivity in the so-called Central Forest Spine (CFS) is painfully slow.

The Role of Political Will in Forest Conservation

Political will plays a crucial role in forest conservation. Decisions to protect or convert tiger habitats lie with state governments, making their commitment essential for effective conservation. However, a lack of political will, coupled with a lack of innovative financing mechanisms for preserving natural forests, has allowed deforestation to continue unabated. To halt the loss of tiger habitats, there needs to be a concerted effort from both state and federal governments towards prioritising and financing forest conservation.

The Need for Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife conservation is an urgent necessity in the face of the extinction crisis facing the Malayan tiger. It involves a combination of measures, including anti-poaching efforts, habitat restoration and protection, and the strengthening of wildlife laws and regulations. However, the implementation of these measures requires substantial resource allocation and strong political will.

Anti-Poaching Measures

JUNGLE TIGER CATWALKAnti-poaching measures are the first line of defense in protecting the Malayan tiger from extinction. This involves increasing the number of front-line rangers, enhancing intelligence gathering to break the wildlife trade chain, and providing rapid response teams to act on information. Despite the significant threat that poaching poses to wildlife, it is often not seen as a national priority, resulting in inadequate resources allocated to enforcement work.

Habitat Restoration and Protection

Habitat restoration involves the active regeneration of degraded or destroyed habitats, while habitat protection focuses on preserving existing natural habitats from further degradation. This requires innovative financing mechanisms to ensure the preservation of intact, interconnected forests through a network of safe corridors within the country. Some initiatives are emerging such as the the Green Financing Task Force in the state of Pahang. The aim is the expansion of protected habitats to conserve the tiger population in Pahang

Strengthening Wildlife Laws and Regulations

Strong wildlife laws and regulations are instrumental in deterring wildlife crimes. Strengthening these laws, including the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, can provide a legal framework for prosecution and penalties for wildlife crimes, providing an additional deterrent to poaching.

The Role of Civil Society

Civil society plays a crucial role in wildlife conservation. Community involvement, public awareness campaigns, and grassroots initiatives can significantly complement official conservation efforts. These efforts can range from reporting wildlife crimes, participating in anti-poaching patrols, or advocating for stronger wildlife protection laws.


The extinction of the Malayan tiger looms large, but it is not inevitable. With concerted efforts from governments, NGOs, and civil society, it is possible to turn the tide and secure a future for this majestic creature. However, this requires immediate action, substantial resources, and political will. The question remains: Are we willing to do what it takes to prevent the extinction of the Malayan tiger?

In her non-profit company Biodiversity Business, Barbara combines her lifelong experience in marketing communications with her passion for animals. Her mission is #Communication4Conservation: saving endangered species and their habitats.

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