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

Thailand: The sad tale of the Tiger
28th January 2017;

The death of a Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) from Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary this month provides a stark illustration as to how our forest “management” has failed abysmally.

Before the death of “HKT-178” – which was caused by shotgun wounds – the seven-year-old Tiger was spotted on Jan 8 by villagers of Lampang’s Mae thot tambon, more than 300 kilometres away from his original habitat in the sanctuary. His ill-fated journey began with the search for food and ended on villagers’ farmland.

Wildlife authorities said they had tracked HKT-178 in the sanctuary, the largest habitat of Tigers, since 2011. Then he was captured on camera the following year in Mae Wong National Park on the northern border of Huai Kha Khaeng. Authorities lost track of him until this month.

The Lampang villagers found him suffering from exhaustion and hiding in a cassava plantation. They tried to save him from his wounds by calling for help from officials at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. Unfortunately, HKT-178 was too weak and eventually lost the fight for his life.

The wounds suggested it was not the work of hunters, wildlife authorities said. It was more likely he was shot by a terrified villager out of self-defence.

In fact, the Tiger was the victim of economic development altering his natural habitat. He was not the first, nor the last, creature to die from this change.

Before this, several Elephants (Elephas maximus indicus) were killed when roaming into villagers’ farmland and plantations to get some food.

The Tiger’s fate highlights the importance of natural forest as a habitat for wildlife. The creature might have survived, had he not been lost while seeking his own territory – an instinctive drive of a wild beast – into human habitat.

His fate also highlights the need to nurture natural forest as a home for wildlife creatures. The fact is we have lost a vast area of forest reserve for infrastructure development projects such as dams, roads and highway construction, as well as uncontrolled expansion of human habitats.

Some roads and highways, like those in the Khao Yai area, disrupt the routes used by wild animals, resulting in dangerous human-animal confrontations.

In some areas, roads simply cut the forest into small fragments of land, which makes it difficult for nature to maintain a balance. Shrinking habitats, with dwindling food sources, put wildlife animals in a difficult situation. That’s the reason they end up roaming plantations that are scattered around their degraded habitat.

Besides, we should not forget that Mae Wong National Park in Nakhon Sawan, which serves as the buffer zone for the Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary, a world heritage site, is under threat from a dam project, proposed for decades by the Irrigation Department.

The dam will compromise the value of the park, which is now being nominated for a world heritage site in its own right. That means the home for Tigers will be further disturbed, and may no longer be suitable as a wildlife habitat.

Despite several public protests, the Irrigation Department has adamantly pushed for the controversial project, ignoring other alternatives, such as dams that are less destructive.

Now EIA studies for the Mae Wong project have been completed and are being considered by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning’s expert committee. It is hoped those experts will treasure the park and keep it, not just for the Tigers’ habitat, but for the sake of balanced development.

Source: Bangkok Post

BURNING BRIGHT NO MORE: Wildlife officials fail to save the life of a wounded Tiger found in a cassava plantation in Lampang.

Thailand: Tiger’s death reflects failure in forest management
By Paritta Wangkiat, 22nd January 2017;

Early this month, villagers in tambon Mae Thot of Thoen district in the northern province of Lampang discovered Tiger footprints and heard roars.

On Jan 8, they found a Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) suffering from exhaustion hiding in a cassava plantation. The villagers contacted officials from the conservation office under the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) for assistance.

The Tiger was captured using a tranquilliser gun the next afternoon.

Staff from the DNP initially intended to release the animal back into the forest but changed their mind after discovering shotgun wounds on its haunch and other parts of its body.

The Tiger was sent to Huay Yang Pan Conservation Centre in Chiang Mai’s Hot district to receive medical treatment. The assistance, however, came too late. The Tiger was pronounced dead on Jan 17.

Identified as “HKT-178”, the 180-kilogramme male Tiger was aged around seven years old. It had been tracked by the DNP since 2011.

Saksit Simcharoen, the DNP’s wildlife researcher who tracks Tigers, said HKT-178 was first captured in the middle of 2011 by a camera trap in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary – part of Thailand’s western forest complex which is the largest habitat of Tigers. HKT-178 is the son of another wild Tiger named “Fancy”, which has been previously captured by DNP.

HKT-178 appeared again, alone, in a camera trap picture in Mae Wong National Park on the northern border of Huai Kha Khaeng in December 2011, showing that it had started to separate from its mother and seek its own territory when it grows to adulthood.

The camera recorded its last picture in late 2012, still in Mae Wong. The Tiger was never seen again until the tragic ending at the cassava plantation in Lampang this month.

Mr Saksit said HKT-178 was likely roaming outside Mae Wong National Park situated between Nakhon Sawan and Kamphaengpetch when it disappeared from the DNP’s radar.

“The death of HKT-178 shows the return of a Tiger – a creature that chooses to live in supportive natural habitat,” he said.

According to Mr Saksit and his team’s research of Tigers in Huai Kha Khaeng, male and female Tigers roam 200-300 and 60-70 square kilometres respectively.

Tigers require spacious living areas. However, shrinking forest areas and declining food sources are leading to encounters between Tigers and humans.

The World Wildlife Fund has reported cases of Tigers roaming beyond Huai Kha Kheang and settling in other areas such as Mae Wong and forests in Kanchanaburi.

In another case, a three-year-old male Tiger known as “HKT-206M” was shot dead in Kawkareik village in Maynmar’s Kayin state last year. It appeared in a camera trap photo with its mother in Huai Kha Khaeng in 2015.

Some experts believe that it crossed the border to seek its own territory and ended up exhausted and hungry.

But HKT-178 was fortunate to gain mercy from local villagers.

Officials are trying to find out why HKT-178 was shot. One theory is that it might have roamed to the far edge of forest into the human habitat in search of suitable territory or to escape hunters. Lampang’s Thoen district is around 300 kilometres from the northern border of Huai Kha Kheang.

“We have yet to determine the exact spot where the Tiger was shot, and why it had to travel so far,” said the DNP’s deputy director-general Adisorn Nuchdumrong. “We have yet to establish whether people shot the Tiger on purpose or in self-defence.”

HKT-178 had not been detected for many years so officials could not locate its whereabouts, making it difficult to determine the location where it had been shot and the person or persons who shot it.

Panudet Kerdmali, secretary-general of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, suspects that the Tiger may have been shot by a villager trying to protect livestock because the bullet that killed the Tiger came from a shotgun.

His theory is based on the fact that the gunman fired a number of shallow spherical pellets that damaged the Tiger’s skin. A shotgun is not the weapon of choice for professional hunters who try to ensure the Tiger’s skin is undamaged.

“The latest death reflects a failure in the management of forests and Tiger population in Thailand,” he said.

“Trees remain in the forest but not creatures which serve as the Tigers’ food and which enhance the ecosystem.”

Last year, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment mulled the idea of releasing Tigers from Huai Kha Kheang into Khao Yai National Park to balance the food chain and ecological structure as no Tigers – a hunter at the top of the food chain – have been detected in Khao Yai for over a decade.

But the idea came under criticism as the animals would not survive in the forest as the Tigers’ food sources and habitat are not well managed.

Source: Bangkok Post

Thailand: Injured tiger rescued in Lampang
9th January 2017;

Wildlife officials on Monday rescued a male Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) with a gunshot wound after it was seen roaming a plantation in Thoen district on Monday.

Officials from the Bureau of Conservation Areas Region 12 and Doi Chiangdao Wildlife Research Station in Chiang Mai were called to a cassava plantation on Lampang-Tak Road in tambon Mae Thod at 2.30pm after residents reported sightings of a Tiger in the area and at a creek about 500 metres from the plantation.

The team cordoned off the area and went to a higher ground and discovered the Tiger was hiding in a thick grassy area only 30 metres from the road. The big cat did not move because it was injured. Officials used a tranquiliser gun to capture it and later found the animal was shot in the buttocks and was bleeding.

Bureau chief Chombhum Jomthan described the injured Tiger as fully grown – 1.2 metres high and 160cm long. The Tiger was transported to Doi Chiangdao Wildlife Research Station for treatment, he said.

Source: Bangkok Post

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