World Wildlife Day 2018

World Wildlife Day falls on 3rd March every year, and it’s a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The theme for World Wildlife Day in 2018 is “Big cats: predators under threat”. Big cats, and their smaller relatives, are among the most widely recognized and admired animals across the globe. However, today these charismatic predators are facing many and varied threats, which are mostly caused by human activities. Overall, their populations are declining at a disturbing rate due to loss of habitat and prey, conflicts with people, poaching and illegal trade.

In Singapore, both the Tiger (Panthera tigris) and Leopard (Panthera pardus) were wiped out, but the Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) still survives. However, it too is threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The roads that run along and through our forest fragments take their toll. For example, it was feared that the Leopard Cat had become extinct in mainland Singapore, until 2001, when a roadkill was found in Mandai, on the fringes of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Another roadkill was reported from Jalan Bahar, along the edge of the Western Catchment, in 2007.

Roads also threaten Leopard Cats and other wildlife in Peninsular Malaysia – even big cats are not spared. There are two notable recent incidents: in February 2016, a Malayan Tiger was hit by a car as it crossed the East Coast Expressway Phase 2 in Terengganu, which cuts through a forest reserve. A necropsy revealed that it was a pregnant tigress. And in June 2017, a melanistic Leopard (typically called a ‘black panther’) was found dead along Jalan Sungai Yu-Merapoh in Pahang, not far from an eco-viaduct that serves as a wildlife crossing.

Over the past century we have been losing wild cats, among the planet’s most majestic predators, at an alarming rate. World Wildlife Day 2018 gives us the opportunity to raise awareness about their plight and to galvanize support for the many global and national actions that are underway to save these iconic species.

Photo credits: Leopard Cat roadkill by Charith Pelpola
Tiger and Leopard roadkills from New Straits Times

  • The most deaths involved the Malayan Tapir, a species designated as ‘endangered’, or very likely to be extinct.
  • Last year, a Malayan Tiger was hit by an MPV as it crossed the East Coast Expressway 2 at around 1 am, prompting renewed calls for motorists to slow when using highways at vulnerable areas at night.

Photos: Bernama

Malaysia: From Leopard to Sun Bears: Malaysian motorists are killing our precious fauna
By May Robertson, 28th May 2017;

Nature and animal lovers were left heartbroken on Christmas eve as two threatened animals — a Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) and a Tapir (Tapirus indicus) — were both killed following collisions with motorists.

The deaths were hardly new, nor were they isolated.

Statistics given by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and the Wildlife Department to Malay Mail recorded at least 39 roadkill deaths involving threatened species in Malaysia between January and September this year.

The most deaths involved the Malayan Tapir, a species designated as “endangered”, or very likely to be extinct.

The report also indicated that there were 221 cases of roadkill in the same period, with the most cases happening in Pahang at 24 incidents, which was eight times more than runners-up Terengganu and Johor.

Just last year, a Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) — classified “critically endangered” — was hit by an MPV as it crossed the East Coast Expressway 2 at around 1 am, prompting renewed calls for motorists to slow when using highways at vulnerable areas at night.

Things have not changed much. Malay Mail lists down several of this year’s reported cases of motorists mowing down threatened animals:

June 19: Elephant calf in Ipoh, Perak

An Elephant (Elephas maximus) calf was killed after a teacher came across a herd of Elephants at the middle of the East-West Highway around 2.30 am. Following the incident, a hoax went viral online claiming that several Elephants went on a rampage.

June 22: Black Leopard in Kuala Lipis, Pahang

A 60-kg black Leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) was killed after it was hit by a heavy vehicle along Jalan Sungai Yu-Merapoh, Kuala Lipis. The animal was found just eight km away from the Sungai Yu Eco Viaduct wildlife route.

August 22: Tapirs in Kuantan, Pahang

Two Tapirs were critically injured after they were simultaneously hit while crossing the Kuantan-Gebeng bypass at around 10pm. The two Tapirs succumbed to their head and stomach injuries.

August 23: Elephant in Gerik, Perak

A 12-year-old bull Elephant was killed after a tour bus on the East-West Highway rammed into it at around 5.30am. The animal collapsed and got up to its feet, only later to die at the shoulder of the road some time later.

October 29: Tapir in Jeli, Kelantan

A Tapir was found dead after it was hit by a vehicle on the Jalan Jeli-Dabong near Kampung Renyuk, Jeli. The animal was killed by an injury to its neck.

December 22: Tapir in Kuala Pilah, Negri Sembilan

A car hit a Tapir dead at around 4.30 am along Jalan Seremban-Kuala Pilah.

Source: Malay Mail

  1. Roadkill of an adult female Tapir
  2. Roadkill of a female Tiger
  3. Roadkill of a baby Elephant

Photos: Perhilitan

Malaysia: Malaysia to roll out wildlife crossing awareness measures after spate of roadkill cases
By Sumisha Naidu, 21st October 2017;

Malaysia is planning to build more viaducts and roll out wildlife crossing awareness at driving schools after recording more than 2,000 roadkill cases on the peninsula over five years, many involving endangered animals.

Between 2012 to 2016, wildlife roadkills have included not only the more common Monitor Lizards (Varanus spp.) (667 cases) and Macaques (Macaca spp.) (393) but also endangered animals such as Malayan Tapirs (Tapirus indicus) (43), according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in a statement this week.

In the first nine months of 2017, the Malayan Tapir topped the list of endangered animals killed on the road, followed by Asian Leopard Cats (Prionailurus bengalensis) (14), Elephants (Elephas maximus) (2), Binturong or Asian Bearcats (Arctictis binturong) (2) and one Leopard (Panthera pardus).

Johor recorded the highest number of incidents in the past five years with 494 such cases, followed by Kedah (479), Perak (394), Terengganu (310) and Negeri Sembilan (161).

“This totally senseless killing of our animals has to stop and is such a waste of our national heritage,” said minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar in a statement on Monday (Oct 16).

According to officials, wildlife roadkill incidents usually occur at night, when the animal is trying to cross a road or highway from one area of forest to another in search of food, mates “or seeking more suitable habitat for its survival”.

In August, a pair of Tapirs were killed by a motorist at the Gebeng bypass, days after an Elephant died when a tour bus ran into it in Perak.

Last year, a critically endangered Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) which was pregnant with two cubs was run over by a car headed to Kuala Terengganu.

HELPING ANIMALS GET TO THE OTHER SIDE

Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) has so far installed 236 warning signs at 133 roadkill hotspots to warn drivers to slowdown.

“Please slow down when you see these warning signs,” said Dr Wan Junaidi.

“It is indeed disheartening to know that some drivers tend to speed up when they see those animal crossing signs.”

Dr Pazil Abdul Patah, the director of the Department of Biodiversity Conservation at PERHILITAN told Channel NewsAsia that his department is in talks with driving schools across the country to incorporate wildlife crossing awareness into their curriculums by next year.

Three viaducts have also been built specifically to help wildlife cross safely, with plans for more.

“It has been positive to see a lot of wildlife have been using the viaducts – Elephants, Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus), Tapirs, Deers (F. Cervidae), Wild Boars (Sus scrofa) and smaller animals like Civet Cats (F. Viverridae) and Flat-headed Cats (Prionailurus planiceps),” said Dr Pazil.

Dr Wan Junaidi told Channel NewsAsia most road builders have been told to create wildlife-friendly viaducts when building through forests and sanctuaries as well.

However, environmentalists are concerned that roadkill incidents will only increase with several major rail projects in the works – including the High-Speed Rail linking up Singapore to Malaysia and the East Coast Rail Link cutting across the Titiwangsa mountain range.

Dr Junaidi said that his officers are providing input on these projects for developers to include tunnels and viaducts for wildlife in their construction plans.

Source: Channel NewsAsia

Graphic images of a dead Malayan Tiger being dismembered, which had been making its round on social media since yesterday, have left netizens reeling in shock and disgust. Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) Enforcement Acting Director, Rozidan Md Yasin told NST Online that initial information gathered suggests that the incident took place in Pahang.

Malaysia: Viral images of butchered Tiger may have come from Pahang
By James Sivalingam, 15th October 2016;

Graphic images of a dead Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) being dismembered, which had been making its round on social media since yesterday, have left netizens reeling in shock and disgust.

The images show several men posing for pictures with the Tiger’s carcass. One of the images also shows the tiger’s belly being slit open.

While the origin of the pictures remain unconfirmed, the authorities believe that the poaching activity may indeed have taken place in Malaysia.

Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) Enforcement Acting Director, Rozidan Md Yasin told NST Online that initial information gathered suggests that the incident took place in Pahang.

“Investigations are ongoing and at this stage, it is difficult to confirm the location and when it took place,” he said.

Malaysian Nature Society President Henry Goh, yesterday told a local portal that the Tiger was killed with a snare trap, commonly used by the Orang Asli community.

Wildlife poachers, he said, have begun enlisting the Orang Asli community to hunt Malaysian wildlife for them.

“The poachers will give a bit of money to the Orang Asli to kill the animals. In return, they make thousands in US dollars by selling the skins and other organs on the underground international market,” he was quoted as saying.

The existence of this practice was confirmed by Rozidan.

“Yes, it does happen. The rural communities, especially the Orang Asli, are often ‘used’ by unscrupulous parties for their own interest,” he said.

In the wake of this incident, Rozidan assured the public that Perhilitan is stepping up its surveillance in relevant areas.

He urged members of public who may have more information to come forward to assist investigations.

Malayan Tigers are classified as ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It is estimated that there are less than 350 in existence.

The species is protected under the Protection of Wildlife Act 2010, which carries a maximum five-year jail term and a RM500,000 fine on offenders.

Meanwhile, Kanitha Krishnasamy of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia (TRAFFIC), an international wildlife trade monitoring network, said poaching and illegal trade pose an urgent threat that does maximum damage in a short time.

The Tiger population, she said, has dwindled in many parts of their former habitat due to illegal hunting, mainly for their skin, bones and other body parts.

“It’s a worrying concern because we don’t have as many Tigers as we thought we had.

"Malayan Tigers are critically endangered, which means we’re one step away from it being extinct in the wild,” warned Kanitha.

Source: New Straits Times

These two images have gone viral on social media and messaging apps.

Malaysia: Perhilitan investigating viral pix of people with dead Tiger
By Simon Khoo, 14th October 2016;

The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) is investigating images of several individuals posing next to a dead Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) that have gone viral on social media.

“We take a serious view of this matter and have ordered a probe to be carried out to check the authenticity of the images,” said Perhilitan director-general Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim.

“Investigations into the case will be done under Section 68(2)© of the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 for hunting Tigers without a special permit,” he said in a statement to The Star Friday evening.

The offence carries a jail term of up to five years and a maximum fine of RM500,000, upon conviction.

Abdul Kadir said his officers were now going all-out to track down those responsible and verify the exact location where the photo was taken.

Tigers are a protected species and it is illegal to kill or maim them, unless in a life-threatening situation.

He urged those with information on the case to call the Perhilitan hotline at 1-800-88-5151 (8am to 6pm) or to file a report on its website at www.wildlife.gov.my.

Source: The Star

Two individuals posing with the carcass of a dead Tiger.
Photo: MYCAT Facebook

Malaysia: Shocking images of dead Tiger sparks rage, Perhilitan investigating
By Amar Shah Mohsen, 14th October 2016;

Just over a month after the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) made one of its biggest seizures, which include Tiger skins, pictures of a dead Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) being dismembered is now making its round on social media.

The images, which portrayed several individuals posing with the carcass, has sparked anger and disgust among netizens, who were less than impressed with yet another poaching case of the already “critically endangered” species.

In one of the images, an individual is even seen slitting open the Tiger’s belly while two others looked on.

Although it is yet to be confirmed where the incident took place, it is believed to have happened in the country.

Perhilitan Deputy Director-General II Fakhrul Hatta Musa said the images had most likely been taken in either the National Park, Pahang or in Perak.

He said the department is now in the midst of investigating when and where exactly the incident took place, and who were behind the poaching.

“In fact, we (Perhilitan) are having a meeting later today to discuss, among other things, the graphic images,” he said when contacted earlier, adding that a statement would be released soon.

Meanwhile, wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic senior programme manager (Southeast Asia) Kanitha Krishnasamy said the incident should be a reminder of the continuous and ongoing illegal trade in the country.

“This is not a good sign, when a decade ago the country signed up to a national plan to double the number of wild Tigers.

"If we don’t want to lose a national icon, then the only way is to send a strong message to the poachers and illegal traders … that those caught will face the full force of the laws we have in place,” she told theSun.

If found guilty, offenders face a maximum of five years in jail or RM500,000 fine or both under the Protection of Wildlife Act 2010.

It is estimated that the current Malayan Tiger population in the country is currently below 350, despite the government targeting at least 1,000 of them by 2020.

Just on Sept 2, Perhilitan announced the seizure of animal parts worth RM2 million and arrested 12 individuals including two Malaysians.

The department seized ivory, Pangolin (Manis sp.) scales, various body parts of Hornbills (F. Bucerotidae), Tiger skins and teeth, Bear (F. Ursidae) claws and bones and skulls believed to be from wild mammals.

Source: The Sun Daily

Malaysia: Orang Asli kids kill Tiger
Malaysian Nature Society President Henry Goh said the incident took place last week in Pahang
13th October 2016;

Pictures of two Orang Asli children killing a Tiger have gone viral on social media.

Following that, a wildlife watchdog is appealing to Malaysians to come forward to identify the people behind the killing.

Malaysian Nature Society President Henry Goh said the incident took place last week in Pahang.

“The Tiger was killed with a snare, usually used by the Orang Asli. They will wait for the Tiger to walk into the sharp snare that kills the animal,” he told FMT.

Goh posted the pictures of the incident on his Facebook page today, urging people with knowledge on the incident to contact the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) at 1 300 801 010 or call MNS at 019 3564194.

He said MNS was saddened by the incident as it came at a time when there were only about 250 to 300 Tigers left in Malaysia.

The figures were obtained through footprints in the thick rainforest in Belum Forest in Pahang and Endau Rompin Rainforest in Johor.

He said poachers continue to use Orang Asli to kill wildlife in Malaysia.

“The poachers will give a bit of money to Orang Asli to kill the animals.

"In return, they make thousands in US dollars by selling the skins and other organs on the underground international market.”

MNS, he said, is hoping to preserve Tigers, which are a national symbol.

“We should protect it,” he said.

Between 2010 and 2013, more than 2,241 poachers’ traps and 1,728 illegal camp sites were discovered by NGOs conducting research in Peninsular Malaysia’s forests.

The Protection of Wildlife Act 1972 imposes a maximum penalty of a five-year jail term and a RM15,000 fine on offenders.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

Poaching is a very real threat to the Tiger’s survival in Malaysia. These photos surfaced recently, and Perhilitan is investigating the incident. If you have any information, please come forward. Report anonymously to the Wildlife Crime Hotline 019 356 4194 or directly to Jabatan Perhilitan Semenanjung Malaysia through 1800 88 5151. And add your voice to the call for #NoMoreDeadTigers at bit.do/mycatpetition

Source: Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) Facebook

Malaysia: Of pregnant tigers and sad whales

By Quek Yew Aun, 23rd February 2016;

February 2016 has been a grim month so far for Malaysian wildlife. In a span of less than one week, we have lost members of two very recognisable species ― a Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) and a Bryde’s Whale (either Balaenoptera brydei or Balaenoptera edeni). Both died under very different circumstances; the former upon collision with a multi purpose vehicle while attempting to cross the East Coast Expressway 2 while the latter’s cause of death has yet to be confirmed.

Tigers and Whales along with a select few species are what conservationists call charismatic species ― animals unique enough to capture the attention of the general public. The reason for this is still unclear. Some may draw their charm from being large in size like the Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), while others rely on their unconventional life histories, like the male gestating Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.). More often than not, charismatic species are used as de facto symbols for wildlife conservation.

Although both fauna possess these charismatic values, the story of how they died could not be more different. One tells of the gradual loss of Malaysia’s most iconic species in the face of development while the other, how a lack of evidence-based statements can lead to public confusion.

The tale of the Malayan Tiger

This year itself, we have taken six Tigers from the wild. Aside from the three (mother and cubs) lost in the accident, two were poached in January while another Tiger was found in a Wild Boar trap earlier this week. Six might not seem a large number but considering the Tiger population in Malaysia is estimated to be between 250-340, we have already removed 2.4 per cent of all Malayan Tigers this year alone!

Returning to the incident with the pregnant Tigress, I am pleased that the Minister of Environmental and Natural Resource Datuk Wan Junaidi has announced measures to prevent more such accidents in future including the proposal to build 37 eco-viaducts. However, I hope this will not turn out to be just a knee-jerk reaction in response to public outcry. More importantly, the incorporation of eco-viaducts should not be an excuse to build more roads.

According to Dr Reuben Clements of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, eco-viaducts will undoubtedly reduce the impact of existing roads on wildlife. The very presence of roads, however, allows accessibility and hence intensifying further threat to wildlife like forest conversion, poaching and illegal trade.

In short, we have to build fewer new roads cutting through forests and focus on building viaducts for wildlife hot spots along the staggering 49,935 km of federal roads. If nothing is done in the near future, we are at risk of relegating Malaysia’s most iconic species to just adorning the covers of our passports.

A beached Whale

The story of the Bryde’s Whale that was found on Malaysian shores is indeed a tragic one. It was first sighted struggling in the shallow waters of Pontian last Monday. Local fishermen managed to tow the poor creature to deeper waters after several attempts. However, its carcass was found a day later about 100 kilometres away near the river mouth of Sungai Sarang Buaya.

In a video report by StarTV, three different reasons were given by “experts” as to why the Whale died. To make matters worse, the whale was misidentified as a Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealis) when it was actually a Bryde’s Whale from the presence of three parallel ridges on its head.

In the video, a fishery officer explained that the Whale might have been under emotional duress and beached itself after being separated from its pod. A local university professor then theorised that shallower waters could have disrupted Whale migration patterns leading to an eventual stranding. Lastly the Johor branch president of the Malaysian Nature Society pinned the death on disorientation from the noise of heavy shipping in the narrow Malacca Straits.

In response to these claims, MareCet, the only local marine mammal NGO run by actual marine mammalogists, rebutted these statements in a Facebook post. According to them, this particular species of Whale is usually solitary, do not undertake seasonal migrations and do not use echolocation for communication hence would not be affected by shipping vessels. The barrage of inconsistent information is an example of how little we know about marine species inhabiting Malaysian waters and the need for evidence-based statements in reporting.

With that, I caution readers against totally believing reports on wildlife especially the ones that pop up on social media. Alas, only recently the Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) was hunted en masse for supposedly being able to cure HIV/AIDS. Ideally, it is good practice to fact check with something as simple as a Google search.

A bright side?

Taking a step back from the causes of death, both cases managed to garner a sizable following on social media. Is this a positive sign for Malaysian wildlife? Or are we Malaysians merely keyboard warriors looking for the next sensational story? I personally believe that everyone can and should have a part to play in conservation, from doing something as simple as spreading awareness on Whale species nomenclature to actively campaigning against the building of new roads that cut through forest.

In the immortal words of Winston Churchill: “Never let a crisis go to waste”, I hope that these twin tragedies will galvanise action to ensure a future for our wildlife, be it terrestrial or marine.

Source: Malay Mail

Malaysia: Of pregnant tigers and sad whales

Malaysia: MPV driver: I did not hit Tiger deliberately

8th February 2016;

The driver of the car who had hit the Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) while driving along the East Coast Expressway (ECE) said it was an accident.

In a Facebook post, Syahrin Abdul Aziz criticised people who slammed him for hitting the endangered animal and sarcastically questioned them whether they meant that he had actually waited to crash his car into the Tiger.

“How am I supposed to deliberately hit the tiger? It’s like I’m waiting (at) the right place at the right time waiting for a specific Tiger to cross the road at a specific time and hit her with my car?,” he said.

However, others defended him and said that he should not be blamed for the accident.

In an earlier Facebook post, Syahrin said he was driving at a speed of about 100kph to 120kph on the ECE Phase 2.

He said when it happened, it was “very dark” and the nearest cars on both sides of the highway were at least 500m away from his vehicle.

Syahrin said at the 321.1km highway mark, the Tiger suddenly appeared about 5m away from him. It was crossing the road from left to right and he could not avoid it.

A spokesman from the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) said Syahrin would not be charged as it was classified as an accident and that the matter was reported immediately to the authorities after it happened.

Meanwhile, the Terengganu Wildlife Department has confirmed that the Tiger was from the wild, and did not escape from a nearby zoo, Bernama reported.

Its director Mohd Hasdi Husin said based on an autopsy, the Tiger which was pregnant, had died from severe head injuries after being hit by the vehicle.

In the 1 am incident on Saturday, the Tiger was crossing the expressway when it was hit by the MPV heading from Kuala Lumpur towards Kuala Terengganu.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Wan Jaafar said a damaged highway fence may have led to a Tiger’s death in Saturday’s a road accident.

He added that this might have led to the Tiger crossing the road and the accident site was also 700m away from the Rasau forest reserve.

“Tigers were’t the only animals that died around the East Coast Expressway Phase 2”, he said, adding that five Malayan Tapirs(Tapirus indicus) and a Sun Bear(Helarctos malayanus) were also hit by vehicles in the area since 2012.

Source: The Star

Malaysia: MPV driver: I did not hit Tiger deliberately