Name: Malayan Tiger (tigris ssp. jacksoni)
Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
Population Estimate: 250-340
Range: Peninsular Malaysia
Threats: Habitat Loss / Poaching / Illegal Wildlife Trade / Human Conflict
The Malayan tiger is the national animal of Malaysia with the Malaysia’s Coat of Arms featuring two of these tigers facing each other over a shield. On the crest the phrase “Unity is Strength” is written in both Romanized Malay on the left and Jawi on the right. This is quite appropriate as throughout history tigers have been a symbol of both strength and fierceness.
Malayan tigers were recognized as a new subspecies of tiger Panthera tigris jacksoni when in 2004 genetic analysis found they were a distinct species from the Indochinese tiger Panthera tigris ssp. Corbetti. However, the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria also recognizes the tiger by the scientific name Panthera tigris malayensis.
Malayan tigers are found only on the Malay Peninsula in Malaysia. In 2021 it is estimated there are only around 150-200 of these tigers left in the wild. In the 1950’s there were over 3,000 tigers in Malaysia.
Description and Habitat
Malayan tigers are one of the smallest of the tiger subspecies. A male Malayan tiger grows to be around eight feet long (2.4m) from head to tail while females grow to be around seven feet long (2.1m). A male Malayan tiger weighs around 220 to 300 lbs. (99kg – 136kg) while a female around 170 to 240 lbs. (77kg – 108).
Their natural habitat is forests, shrublands and grasslands and their diet can consist of deer, wild boar, and small bears. It might also include monkeys, birds, and reptiles. Tigers are mostly nocturnal hunters and use their keen sight and hearing to locate their prey. A structure at the back of a tiger’s eye behind the retina called the tapetum lucidum enables them to have better night vision and some research suggests a tiger’s vision is five times better than humans.
The Malayan tiger is a solitary animal and usually lives alone except when females are raising cubs. A female will spend between three to six months nursing her cubs and a litter can range from two to six newborns. Young tigers usually leaver their mother’s range once they become proficient hunters which usually takes 1.5 – 3 years.
Fewer than 250 Malayan tigers remain in the wild. The primary threats they face include poaching for their skins and body parts for traditional medicine, habitat loss, agricultural, logging, and other human developments, and retaliatory killing by farmers for attacks on livestock. The tiger’s loss of habitat includes deforestation and the development of agricultural land to produce food, rubber, and palm oil. Palm plantations has fragmented what little habitat is left for tigers.
Illegal poachers enter Malaysia’s forests and set up snares (a steel cable noose) which trap the Malayan tigers and ensure a slow and painful death.
The Malayan tiger was classified as critically endangered in 2015. It, like all other tigers is also protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Conservation groups are working with local governments to protect the existing population, and anti-poaching programs are being enacted as well.
According to the International Union to Conserve Nature (IUCN) some of the conservation actions needed to protect the Malayan tiger include habitat protection; habitat restoration; species management; species recovery; species re-introduction; formal education; legislation; compliance and enforcement; livelihood alternatives
One important action that individuals can take to protect Malayan tigers, and other wildlife that shares their habitat, is to choose foods and products made by companies committed to certified sustainable palm oil.
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