Malaysians were recently shocked by the loss of SIX wild Malayan tigers in the span of a single month. They were among the last 300 tigers that now fight to stay alive. Extinction is real.
These are just the latest cases in a string of deaths. Illegal hunting and trade, driven by demand for wildlife from within and outside Malaysia, remains the most devastating threat to tigers and other endangered species.
We demand that poachers be brought to justice and landowners of tiger habitat, be it states, corporations or individuals, to bear responsibility to save wild tigers. We call for:
1. Maximum sentences to be handed out to criminals convicted of killing or trading in tigers and other endangered species.
2. Civil society to be allowed to support the investigation and prosecution process of wildlife crimes, and alternative penalties be used against wildlife criminals.
3. Sustainable forestry certification to be re-evaluated for forests where tigers are killed.
4. Highest priority to be given to maintain tiger habitats under natural forest cover and to halt further forest fragmentation within the Central Forest Spine landscape.
The power and beauty of tigers have long inspired awe in us. In 2008, the nation committed to double the number of tigers from 500 to 1,000 by 2020, but is failing to do so.
Eight years on, we’ve lost more tigers than we can afford to and the Malayan tiger, our national icon, is now classified as Critically Endangered – one step away from being extinct in the wild.
Let the saving of tigers symbolise our capacity for change, to do the right thing. We will tolerate NO MORE dead tigers and empty forests. We urge everyone to act now. Please add your voice, click here to sign this petition today!
If we allow the tiger to go extinct, what hope do we have for other wildlife? Tigers need to be protected from poaching in large forests full of prey, and they in turn will maintain the balance of the ecosystem.
Without wildlife that play important roles, such as seed dispersers, the health of the forests that our lives depend on will be negatively impacted.
In detail, our demands are for:
1. The Courts to impose maximum sentences on criminals convicted of killing or trading in tigers and other endangered species. There is also a need to allow digital evidence, such as images or videos, to be admitted in wildlife-related criminal prosecutions, as is being practised in other Southeast Asian countries.
The illegal wildlife trade is an organised crime, and must be treated with severity. The maximum penalty provided by the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 is RM500,000 and 5 years jail, for tiger-related offences. In 2013, a wildlife trafficker linked to Malaysia’s largest seizure of tiger parts, including 8 tiger skins and 22 whole tiger skulls and bones, was sentenced to only 24 months in jail. In 2005, a trader was fined a measly RM7,000 for possession of a chopped up tiger, under the old Protection of Wildlife Act 1972.
2. The Attorney General to empower civil society to support the investigation and prosecution process of wildlife crimes. Apply the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 to wildlife crimes, and use alternative penalties such as freezing bank accounts, confiscating passports and revoking all business licences.
There are weak links in the investigation and prosecution process, but the gaps can be filled by legal experts engaged by civil society to help build solid cases. Many Investigating Officers are not familiar with the technicalities of collecting evidence or managing crime scenes, while Prosecuting Officers are not well-versed in wildlife laws and commensurate penalties.
A video footage of alleged poachers posing next to a tiger carcass was aired by Channel 4 News in the United Kingdom in 2010, supposedly filmed in “northern Malaysia”. Those men were never tracked down and prosecuted. In a separate incident, four men who reportedly admitted to killing a tiger in 2010 were acquitted in 2012 due to improper handling of forensic evidence.
Alternative penalties must be explored to effectively deter wildlife crimes and shut down criminal networks, as convicted offenders have been able to pay fines with ease. The tiger trafficker convicted in 2013 posted a hefty bail of RM70,000 while two pangolin smugglers convicted in 2012 paid their fines of RM100,000 each in full. Wildlife criminals must be targeted where it hurts – their wallets.
3. Councils responsible for forest certification to hold concessionaires accountable to protecting wildlife within concessions, by re-evaluating certification for forests where tigers are killed. Detailed findings must also be made public.
The responsibility of protecting wildlife often falls only on wildlife authorities but we want all landowners of tiger habitat, be it states, corporations or individuals, to be held accountable. The majority of tiger habitats in the country are within forests that are certified for sustainable practices. These certifications require concessionaires to implement measures to prevent poaching. As such, sufficient protection should be in place for wildlife in these forests. The Councils should ensure that stringent procedures are implemented.
4. State Governments to give the highest priority to maintain tiger habitats under natural forest cover and to halt further forest fragmentation within the Central Forest Spine (CFS) landscape, and the National Biodiversity Council to coordinate state commitments towards securing the CFS.
In Malaysia’s Federal Constitution, forests are placed under State jurisdiction. Thus, it is the responsibility of all State Governments to protect important forest areas and corridors. Citizens of respective states have a key role to play in influencing environmental policies.
Malaysia already has a strong forest conservation plan – the Central Forest Spine Masterplan for Ecological Linkages. The Central Forest Spine is a network of Peninsular Malaysia’s environmentally sensitive areas. The ambitious plan aims to maintain a long green spine down the peninsular and to link up forest patches through the preservation or restoration of 37 important corridors. Proposed development projects which fall within the Central Forest Spine should not be approved, and immediate measures taken to secure and protect existing forest linkages from being converted into other land uses.
We also have a new National Policy on Biological Diversity which was launched on 22 February 2016. Saving our tiger will be the ultimate litmus test for the implementation of this policy. Failure is not an option.