KOTA BARU: The Malayan tiger population is declining at a critical level and the animal could become extinct in five or 10 years if no drastic action is taken to arrest the issue.
Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) deputy director-general (conservation) Datuk Fakhrul Hatta Musa in a special interview with RTM1 this morning said currently only 150 tigers remain in the country.
"The issue of the extinction of the Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) is now at critical level and if no drastic action is taken to prevent this, in five to 10 years, the animal could become extinct (in the country) like other species such as the (Sumatran) rhino.
"We seek our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to set up National Tiger Conservation Task Force (MyTTF) to ensure that our tigers continue to exist," he added.
Fakhrul said he believed the dwindling number of Malayan tigers was due to loss of habitat as well as changes in land use.
"As for the case in Gua Musang recently, we also suspect the tigers have been infected with the canine distemper virus. This could be the reason why they encroach Orang Asli villages.
"To manage this, we will cooperate with the Veterinary Services Department, local universities and non-governmental organisations to ensure that the tiger population is protected and the animals do not pose any threat to the villagers there," he added.
Elaborating on the Gua Musang tiger sightings, Fakhrul said there are eight rangers from the district Perhilitan office and they are required to cover three main forest reserves in the district.
"The forests are about 100,000ha with a wide variety of wildlife species, not only tigers but also elephants and tapirs.
"The population of these animal species are also at critical level as their numbers are decreasing.
"The eight rangers are currently facing a mounting task to ensure that all conflicts involving the wildlife in the district are being managed efficiently," he said.
Fakhrul said he also believed that poachers were partly responsible for the decline in the animal population.
"We have sought help from the Orang Asli to become our eyes and ears in tracking down the poachers," he said, adding the situation was currently under control.
Ismail Sabri recently said the government was serious in tackling the issue of declining Malayan tiger population.
He had said if immediate action was not taken, Malaysia could face the risk of seeing the Malayan tiger being wiped out in its natural habitat.