Malaysia: Habitat of endangered Malayan tigers vanishing

The Star 23 Oct 18;

PETALING JAYA: The Hulu Sempam area which has been cleared for durian plantation is vital to the survival of the Malayan tiger, which is now considered critically endangered.

The area, said WWF’s Siti Zuraidah Abidin, had also been identified as an Expected Tiger Habitat under the National Tiger Action Plan for Malaysia 2008-2020 and its surrounding forests a confirmed tiger habitat.

“Land clearing at Hulu Sempam can cause the wider forests to be fragmented, which in turn can affect the wildlife movement,” she said.

In June 2015, the Malayan tiger was moved from the “Endangered” to “Critically Endangered” category in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

However, with just two years to go before the plan’s end date, the number of tigers in the wild is believed to have dwindled to about 300.

Launched in 2008, it singles out three major tiger refuge areas in need of protection: the Main Range, the Greater Taman Negara and the Southern Forest Landscape.

The Main Range landscape includes the Royal Belum and Gunung Stong Tengah state parks, Bintang Hijau forest, Ulu Muda forest and the Temenggor, Gunung Basor and Gunung Stong Utara Permanent Reserved Forests (PRF).

The Greater Taman Negara landscape encompasses Taman Negara National Park and over 10,000sq km of PRF around it while the Southern Forest landscape, which is isolated from the other two, includes four groups of increasingly fragmented forests: the Chini/Ibam forest, south-east Pahang peat swamp forest, Endau Rompin National Park and Endau-Kota Tinggi forest.

All are within the Central Forest Spine, a network of forest complexes crucial for biodiversity and environmental protection, mooted under the National Physical Plan.

The plan is the effort of the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat), a collaboration between Wildlife and National Parks Department, Malaysian Nature Society, Traffic South-East Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia.

MyCat general manager and conservation head Dr Kae Kawanishi said while the data collected for the plan was quite outdated, any forest clearance was a threat to the biodiversity in the area.

China's appetite for 'stinky' durian fruit threatening endangered tigers
Forests in the region of Raub in Malaysia are being burned and cleared to make way for durian plantations
Hannah Ellis-Petersen The Guardian 24 Oct 18;

The habitat of one of the world’s most endangered tigers is under threat, according to environmental groups, as forests in Malaysia are cleared to meet growing demand for durians, the divisively pungent fruit hugely popular in China.

Forests in the region of Raub in Malaysia, which has become a popular destination for Chinese and Singapore tourists on “durian tours”, are being burned and cleared to make way for plantations to grow the Musang King variety of the spiky but stinky fruit.

The land is home to the Malayan tiger, which is considered “critically endangered” with fewer than 300 left in the world. Environmental groups have said destroying their habitat could have a “devastating” impact on the tigers’ survival.

Siti Zuraidah Abidin from WWF Malaysia said the Hulu Sempan area, where new plantations are planned, had been designated an “expected tiger habitat”. The area is adjacent to a protected area where the tigers live, she said. Malayan tigers are found only on the Malay Peninsula and in the southern tip of Thailand.

“Land clearing at Hulu Sempam can cause the wider forests to be fragmented, which in turn can affect the wildlife movement,” she said.

It is believed 1,213 hectares of land in Hulu Sempan will eventually be be cut down for the durian plantation by Perbadanan Setiausaha Kerajaan, a company linked to the government.

“The project on that site does not need permission from the forestry department,” confirmed the Pahang Forestry Department.

The demand for durian in China has driven up prices and led to a surge in large-scale durian farming in Malaysia over the past year, with some predicting they could eventually replace palm oil as Malaysia’s biggest export. However, just as palm oil has led to the destruction of the habitat of endangered wildlife such as orangutans, campaigners are concerned the shift towards durian will prove equally destructive to the endangered tiger population.

It is a lucrative market. The value of China’s fresh imports of durian fruit has climbed an average of 26% a year over the past decade, reaching $1.1bn in 2016.

The world’s current biggest exporter of durians is Thailand, every year exporting 402,661 metric tons worth $495m – of which 303,430 metric tons (worth $394m) were exported to China.

The fruit’s odour has been described as resembling feet, onions and manure. It is so smelly that it’s banned on Singapore’s Rapid Mass Transit system.