Loving Malayan Tigers 3000

It’s often cited that Malayan tigers numbered 3,000 in the 1950s. Could that be possible? Biologist Quek Yew Aun examines the evidence for this number.

The Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) is a definitive part of our Malaysian identity. Its presence adorns key icons synonymous to Malaysia, including the national coat of arms and the masthead of a prominent local bank. Even our national football team is nicknamed ‘Harimau Malaya’.

Sadly, the species itself is critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List.

How close a species is to extinction is indicated by the number of individuals remaining in the wild. And wild Malayan tigers have been declining in the past few decades due to factors such as poaching and habitat loss.

However, determining the exact number of Malayan tigers in the wild has always been a challenge.

(Photo: A Malayan tiger in Zoo Negara, 2012. Wild tigers in Malaysia inch closer to extinction but recent concerted conservation efforts bring hope. – Pic by YH Law.)

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彭亨伐木项目加剧原住民土地权的斗争

一个位于彭亨州的种植项目将砍伐大约85平方公里的森林。居住当地的原住民自2019年就反对此项目。然而,发展商获得了有原住民签名的同意书,显得居民似乎转态支持伐木及种植项目了。到底这些同意书背后的真相是什么呢?

原著:刘耀华;翻译:万绮珊

Read this article in English. Baca artikel dalam Bahasa Malaysia.

奥玛拉尼(Omar Rani)是一名来自彭亨Kampung Berengoi的原住民。他和村里的原住民都是文盲。他们自称:“我们从未上过学。”

去年,他们被要求签署一封同意书,以获得YP Olio私人有限公司提供的免费房子。尽管他们对纸上一个字都看不懂,但他们还是签了字。他们信任的是陪同该公司代表前来的政府官员。

(照片: 在彭亨州的Kampung Berengoi 和 Kampung Mesau的原住民村民齐声抗议发展商在他们的习俗地上伐木。拉尼吉纳(左一), 萨尼科蒂 (左二), 奥玛拉尼(中坐), 马鲁夫阿都拉(右一) | 摄影:Aminah A/P Tan Kay Hoe.)

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Deforestation project in Pahang exacerbates Orang Asli land rights struggle

A plantation project in Pahang wants to clear almost 85km2 of primary forest. The Orang Asli who live on the site have been protesting the logging since 2019. But there are two letters signed by the illiterate villagers which purportedly show their support for the logging. What happened?

A version of this story first appeared on Southeast Asia Globe on 21 June 2021.

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OMAR RANI is an Orang Asli who lives in the village of Kampung Berengoi in Pahang. Omar and his fellow Orang Asli villagers are illiterate – or as they put it: “We haven’t gone to school”.

Last year, they were asked to sign letters to receive free houses from private company YP Olio Sdn Bhd. Though unable to read a word, Omar and the villagers signed them; they trusted the government officers who accompanied the company’s representatives.

(Photo: The Orang Asli at Kampung Berengoi and Kampung Mesau gathered to speak out against logging around their homes. Rani (first left), Sani (second left), Omar (seated center), Abdullah (first right). Pic by Aminah A/P Tan Kay Hoe.)

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Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)

Species: Crocodylus porosus (Reptilia : Crocodilia)

Known Range: South Asia to northern Australia

Size: (Adult) 6 m

Interviewed: Wan Nor Fitri Wan Jaafar, wildlife reproduction biologist (wannorfitri[at]gmail.com)

(Photo: Saltwater crocodile by Wan Nor Fitri Wan Jaafar)

In mangroves, the saltwater crocodile claims top predator position. 

And this largest of the crocodiles (adults grow more than 7 meters long) doesn’t just live in saltwater, but thrives in rivers and the intertidal zones on the coast.

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When Invaders Move In On Batu Caves (And They Have)

[First published 31 May 2021]

From flowering plants to butterflies , invasive species are taking over Batu Caves. This alarming threat to the fragile limestone ecosystem needs addressing.

WE HAD trekked up Batu Caves for about 10 minutes when botanist Dr Ruth Kiew turned to me and asked, “Can you see the difference in the vegetation?”

“Between limestone and non-limestone vegetation, you mean?”

“Yes.”

I scanned the plants before me. This was pre-pandemic times and I had been researching limestone species from lists provided by Kiew.

(Photo: Invasive species threaten plants like the keladi (foreground), discovered only 2 years ago and found only on Batu Caves, says limestone specialist Ruth Kiew. ~ pic by SL Wong)

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Covid Provides Relief for Wildlife – but Not Really

With new lockdowns and closure of international borders, wildlife has been an increasingly common sight in Malaysia’s urban areas. But what does this mean? This commentary was first published on Channel News Asia and is republished here with permission.

[First posted May 27, 2021]

WHO DOESN’T like animal videos? Malaysians certainly do. 

With unending COVID-19 lockdowns, a subset of these have become social media favourites: Wild animals in urban areas.

Such visuals feed into the pandemic mantra of “Look how nature recovers when we humans are out of the picture”. But how true is that?

(Photo: Visuals of cute animals in human environments have been going viral during Covid-19; this one hasn’t but registers on the cute scale ~ Pic by Nuratiqah AR )

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Geopark Not Just Another Label for Kinabalu

Though already a World Heritage Site, Kinabalu needs geopark status to conserve oft overlooked natural values, argues geologist Felix Tongkul.

MOUNT Kinabalu, Malaysia’s tallest mountain, is now being assessed for UNESCO Global Geopark status. The proposed geopark encompasses not just the mountain, but the park in which it sits as well as the surrounding districts of Kota Belud, Kota Marudu and Ranau, an area of 4,750 square kilometres.

Kinabalu Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

Why is there a need for more recognition for Kinabalu Park from UNESCO? Is the Global Geopark status more superior to the World Heritage Site status? What is so interesting about geoparks? These are valid questions I often hear from my friends.

(Photo: Mount Kinabalu is the only glacial landscape in the tropical region. Glacial erosion from melting ice 10,000 years ago formed these parallel grooves. – Pic by Felix Tongkul.)

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Can Oil Palm Explain The Lower Forest Loss Here?

Last year, tropical forest loss increased worldwide but Malaysia cut down less than it did the previous year, the fourth year it has done so. What explains this good news?

[First posted on 27 April, 12.17pm.]

Last year, the world lost 12% more tropical forest than it did in 2019, according to satellite census by forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch. Malaysia bucked the global trend: it lost less. 

In fact, Malaysia has trimmed its primary forest losses four years in a row. Losses fell from about 185,000 hectares in 2016 to nearly 73,000 hectares in 2020 (Figure 1).

At the same time, there is a slow down in the expansion of the sector most frequently linked to deforestation – oil palm. Oil palm area in Malaysia contracted in 2020 – the first drop in 44 years.

Could this explain Malaysia’s recent downtrend in primary forest losses? And can we expect forest loss to drop further?

(Photo: Malaysia has been losing less primary forest since 2016. Graph: YH Law)

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Must the Pan Borneo Highway Dissect the Tawai Forest?

[Updated 29 July 2021]

Funds and political support are reinvigorating the Pan Borneo Highway project in Sabah. But is there time to consider ways to mitigate its environmental and socioeconomic impact?

WITH 2,239 kilometres of new roads to be built by 2025, the Pan Borneo Highway is expected to boost connectivity, tourism and trade in and between Sabah and Sarawak.

Parts of the current route, however, would severely impact the environment and local communities, say local NGOs and researchers.

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A Malaysian Environmental Journalism Site