On 14 February 2010 (the first day of the lunar Year of the Tiger), a call came from an informant in the Sungai Yu Tiger Corridor: “Ada bangkai harimau.” (There is a tiger carcass). That was how the Year of the Tiger began for MYCAT.
As it turned out, the carcass was that of a sun bear, snared, skinned and paws chopped off before it was dumped into a river. The difference in species made no difference to the threat faced by wildlife, including the endangered Malayan tiger. Snares, like land mines, kill or maim their victims indiscriminately. While the sun bear had some value to the poacher, it wasn’t the intended target. The bodies of a clouded leopard, wild boar and other “worthless” animals left to rot nearby were proof of this.
Snares are a cruel method of hunting and were made illegal in Malaysia under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. Once an animal has been snared it is almost impossible for it to free itself, as illustrated in the video below, and those that do not get killed by poachers starve to death.
Of the 3,200 wild tigers estimated to remain worldwide, shipments seized over 10 years from January 2000 to April 2010 show that a minimum of two to three tigers are poached every week (Verheij et. al. 2010). Wildlife all over Malaysia faces a threat from poaching, and the Sungai Yu Tiger Corridor is known as a poaching hotspot.
In response to this threat at the Sungai Yu Tiger Corridor, MYCAT initiated the Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT) programme in September 2010 to better protect the area and to enlist the public to join us in protecting Malaysia’s wildlife. CAT enables concerned members of the public to do their part for wildlife.
The programme started with CAT Walks, whereby volunteer naturalists deter poaching by their mere presence and additional watchful eyes at poaching hotspots on weekends. If they encounter any suspicious activities, they contact the Wildlife Crime Hotline (019.356.4194 / firstname.lastname@example.org), managed by MYCAT, and we relay the information to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (DWNP) and the Pahang Forestry Department.
The Corridor is a narrow stretch of state land forests surrounding Sungai Yu, located 15km south of the Taman Negara entrance in Sungai Relau, Pahang (western entrance). Linking the Main Range and Taman Negara, it is a route that many species use to move between the two largest tiger and wildlife landscapes in Malaysia, as noted in the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan.
Without this corridor, genetic diversity will decline and the ability of two separated habitats to support viable populations especially tigers, will be reduced. Reduction in habitat size forces wildlife into rural areas and into conflict with villagers.
State land forests around Sungai Yu provide easy access to interior forests and are vulnerable to poaching pressure as everyone, from local villagers and aboriginal people to foreign agarwood collectors, can enter the forest without a permit. Poachers plan their illegal activities, working extra hard to extract wildlife and timber on weekends and public holidays when wildlife and forestry enforcement personnel are not on duty.
Research shows that low impact recreational activities, such as hiking, camping, photography or bird watching in a wildlife area deters poaching without affecting wildlife too much. Most poachers are far more disturbed by the presence of people than wildlife are, as animals can adapt to low-impact activities by humans.
In 2012, CAT Walks were expended to cover north-west border of Taman Negara on a request made by the then Superintendent of Taman Negara.
CAT and Border Walks occasionally involve camping in the forest, where volunteers will need to have their own equipment, but otherwise they consist of day treks. Each of the three categories under CAT caters to the various fitness levels and preferences of volunteers, enabling outdoor lovers with a wide range of abilities to participate.
Also in 2012, camera trapping in Taman Negara Sungai Relau was introduced as a new activity that is occasionally conducted as part of CAT Walks. Before leaving Taman Negara at the end of a trip, volunteers are given the opportunity to check and retrieve images from camera traps. These cameras have already been set up along the single jeep track that runs into Taman Negara from Sungai Relau to Kuala Juram. Aside from providing volunteers with a unique experience, this activity also aims to monitor the presence of the resident male tiger in the area, nicknamed Bujang (bachelor), as well as the other wildlife.