A part of MYCAT’s work in the Sungai Yu Wildlife Corridor is bringing together different local communities in an effort to protect wildlife, the critically endangered Malayan Tiger included.
Hairiel is from a small town north of the Wildlife Corridor. Being from the area, he is cognizant of the importance of the Sungai Yu Wildlife Corridor and how local communities can make a positive impact. “Protecting the forest here is not just one person’s responsibility. Everyone needs to have the awareness and take care of it together,” he says.
As a Field Assitant for MYCAT Hairiel's tasks include processing patrol data from the Community Rangers, assisting the habitat restoration team and going through images captured on the camera traps. This work gives him the unique opportunity to bond with the indigenous Bateq that he works alongside to support. “Once I was patrolling the forest and it rained heavily and the ranger and I got soaked,” he recalls. “Even though we were cold, we still chatted and laughed.”
Hairiel is also able to observe wildlife in its natural habitat. “I was so excited when I saw an image of a tiger captured in one of the camera traps," he shares. I probably wouldn't have the chance to see local wildlife, otherwise.” His greatest hope is to see the Sungai Yu Ecological Corridor free of poaching and illegal logging.
The camaraderie and mutual respect that comes from different communities working together to protect this important swathe of forest makes the stand they take a particularly meaningful endeavour. “We need to take responsibility for our forest,” Hairiel asserts. This is our duty as inhabitants of the world.”
The Year of the Tiger has been a prominent feature of my 24 years of conservation work in Malaysia.
In 1998, during my first Year of the Tiger in Malaysia, I began my PhD research. Following the shocking discovery that a critical tiger conservation area had become devoid of tigers and their main prey species due to poaching, in 2010, my second Year of the Tiger, MYCAT launched CAT Walk.
Neither I nor MYCAT’s partners knew how long it would take to recover the loss, if at all. Encouragingly, after several years of persistent anti-poaching surveillance walks guided by indigenous people and participated by concerned members of the public, CAT Walk’s citizen conservationists began to document the recovery of small mammals and large ground birds. This was followed by medium to large mammals, and then, to our delight, the forest’s top predators. That was six years ago. And while poaching has yet to be eradicated, the rate of finding snares has declined by 95%.
This year is my third Year of the Tiger in Malaysia, and it has been my most rewarding of all. For the first time, elephants were found to have safely crossed the most vulnerable bottleneck in the ecological corridor that connects Peninsula Malaysia’s National Park (Taman Negara) with the largest area of forested land within the Malayan tiger’s landscape.
Detractors told us that the corridor is a failure and that nothing will regrow on compacted land after the construction of the highway that now runs through the area. Despite this, MYCAT’s ecosystem conservation work continued. As a result of our pre-planting soil treatment and post-planting maintenance, we’ve had saplings grow up to 6 metres in two years; a safe and healthy forest is returning; and the large mammal assemblage found in the National Park is now found in adjacent forest reserves throughout the wildlife corridor. This is what successful people-driven conservation looks like.
In comparison to other partner NGOs in tiger conservation, MYCAT is a lean operation. We employ only two to four full-time officers at a go and have 2% of WWF's financial capacity. We are able to make real impact on the ground because of the steadfast support of people like you.
To honour that contribution, this Year of the Tiger MYCAT hosted by-invitation field trips for selected long-term supporters to experience first-hand the regenerating forest where tigers have returned, and held closed-door talks for others. Such personal gatherings are the safest way for us to disclose detailed data of wildlife recovery in the corridor. To be able to share the sense of wellbeing of the very place that has been the focus of my work for over two decades with you is a privilege and has been immeasurably rewarding.
You are making a difference.
Dear Global Givers,
As pandemic restrictions in Malaysia are almost entirely lifted, life is returning to a new sense of normalcy and residents are going back to their regular routines.
This is good news. MYCAT activities are at full throttle: we have resumed our Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT) Walks and after a more than a two year hiatus, Sungai Yu Ecological Corridor has begun welcoming passionate and concerned members of the public to participate in citizen conservation efforts to protect the critically endangered Malayan tiger and this crucial tiger landscape.
To further strengthen protective human presence in this important wildlife corridor, a new Community Ranger outpost has also been erected at the entrance to the forest to provide around the clock protection.
Data collected by MYCAT and the DWNP since CAT Walks began in 2010 show that snares are typically set up close to access roads for convenience. The construction of new roads for human activities has provided poachers with even more opportunity. The location of the new Community Ranger outpost was selected with this in mind.
MYCAT’s Community Rangers have been able to observe movement in and out of the area day or night from this jungle fort and they have already registered a drop in the number of threats found in the area only a month after setting up base there.
A total of 98 post have been set up by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) throughout Peninsular Malaysia. Our new outpost doubles the number of manned outposts in and around the Sungai Yu permanent forest reserve.
MYCAT’s Community Rangers have taken to it with a great sense of ownership. A joint effort between MYCAT and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), it was built by local indigenous Bateq using mostly natural materials. Decorated to reflect the personalities of the Community Rangers posted there and flying the DWNP flag, local Bateq see it as a symbol of collective perseverance in the fight to protect their home and strengthen their roles as rightful guardians of the forest.
Much work remains to be done. Land use issues and illegal activities continue to threaten the corridor. With your support, MYCAT’s Community Rangers Program has grown in size and effort. Your generosity empowers them and the wider local Bateq community to face these and other emerging challenges, enabling them to protect their way of life and the Malayan tiger with whom they share their forest home.
Dear global givers,
Your support of MYCAT and our efforts to protect Malayan tigers and their habitats couldn’t come at a more critical time. Malaysia clings to its remaining wild tigers by a thin thread. During the Fourth Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation held in January this year, Malaysia’s Prime Minister announced that Malaysia has fewer than 150 tigers remaining in the wild, the number based on the results of a three-year nationwide survey that concluded in 2020.
As part of MYCAT’s efforts to turn government policies into impactful real-world solutions, MYCAT, with your generous support, has been able to engage with various communities to safeguard Peninsula Malaysia’s most important wildlife corridor.
This includes empowering local indigenous Bateq to conduct anti-poaching patrols as Community Rangers. Funding provided by you has allowed MYCAT to run multiple capacity building exercises. As a result, the Community Rangers have shown tremendous improvements in data collection, searching threats, and species identification based on signs. The Community Rangers have continued to detect signs of recovering wildlife in this period.
In a recent debriefing session, we discussed strategies to improve protection based on the data on wildlife and threats collected in the past year. Besides providing MYCAT with valuable insight, these sessions foster greater ranger participation, help to identify project and personnel needs, and provide an open inclusive platform for sharing ideas and concerns.
The programme also has spillover effects, engendering greater awareness of the poaching problem within the larger Bateq community. In a recent incident, we were informed of two young Bateq who had encountered an ensnared kijang (the local term for muntjac; see top image) in a forest located away from our project site. The MYCAT team immediately coordinated with local wildlife authorities to mount an enforcement and release operation. Unfortunately, by the time the tranquilising team arrived the animal was gone, leaving only blood stains behind. The poacher had got there before us and six more snares were found nearby.
The grief that followed the discovery was echoed among the Bateq rangers. “This kijang was always there in our forest,” a Bateq ranger, Adi shared. “I am sad because it is no longer a part of it now.” As tiger prey species, the loss of this kijang and the presence of snares has a cumulative impact on Malaysia’s dwindling tiger population.
Hassan, one of the programme’s senior rangers, patrols the forest daily because of his inherent love for his forest home. Losing wild tigers would be a great tragedy as he and other rangers like him have grown up sharing the forest with local wildlife like the Malayan tiger.
“Acquiring the necessary skills needed to do this work (patrolling tiger habitats) is a requirement set by MYCAT,” Hassan said. “I thank MYCAT who have listened to our needs and given me and my fellow rangers a lot of training to enable us to gain those skills. It’s a lot to learn at the beginning,” he divulged, “But with the continuous support from MYCAT staff, I feel much more confident now than when I first joined the programme.”
The loss of this kijang also underlines the persistent and ever evolving poaching scourge. As a result, we have chosen to move one of our patrol teams out of our current project site into this newly threatened area. With additional support, our plan is to expand the forest and the wildlife under our protection without compromising the recovering wildlife that has been under our protection in our existing site.
We are indebted to global givers everywhere who have supported this programme and our Community Rangers in the fight to save the wild Malayan tiger.
Saving the Malayan tiger, the world’s most endangered big cat, in a country known for one of the highest deforestation rates is nearly impossible.
Your support has made the continuation of this extremely challenging work possible in the toughest year that MYCAT has seen in its 18 years of operation. When many organizations and companies were collapsing, we not only survived but also did more conservation than ever before, thanks to your support.
We surpassed the initial donation target of USD50K on this platform. As the General Manager of the MYCAT program, I would like to thank each of the 321 supporters and report the progress of our work.
Due to reasons beyond COVID-19 and its impacts, the year 2020 was, financially, the toughest year. I broke my own records by writing 15 grant proposals, but most were unsuccessful. We survived, much thanks to people like you who believe in our cause and trusted us with your money. I take the responsibility seriously and am always mindful of how to spend your donations.
In this time of uncertainty, your support gave me the confidence that our work is important, and the support will come. We mobilized the funds to fill the gap left by the government and engaged a total of 65 men and 16 women from the local Bateq tribe, an indigenous community, to protect tigers and restore their habitats.
Towards the end of the 2020, welfare grants from the government supported the Bateq’s wages for the subsequent six months and with that, the toughest period was over. Aboriginal peoples, including the Bateq, are the most marginalized ethnic group among Malaysians. During this challenging period, we were able to increase the Bateq protection workers’ average monthly income by 570% and that of habitat restoration workers by 3,950%. The big jump for the latter group was due to most of the female workers not having any income prior to our engagement with them.
During 2020-2021, the Bateq men planted and cared for 7,462 native tree saplings in addition to the 10,000 trees that had been planted previously to restore severely degraded forest due to road construction, illegal mining, and deforestation. Because of our post-planting monitoring and maintenance, our reforestation effort has a high survivorship rate of 77%. The Bateq women have collected and tended to young saplings at the village tree nursery with 6,700 saplings now waiting to join the growing tiger forest.
For the protection effort, the number of Bateq rangers increased from 10 to a high of 31. They have since undergone nine training sessions and have become proficient in field methodologies. While patrolling over 8,000 km, they disarmed 103 illegal snares and traps.
Due to 300% intensified protection effort and probably the prolonged COVID-related restrictions on human activities negative to wildlife such as poaching, mining, and logging, there were times when the community rangers were reporting tiger presence weekly instead of yearly. Prior to this period, signs of tigers were reported a few times a year in the project site. Besides tigers, other endangered wildlife previously hunted down to local extinction roam free in the safer and regenerating forest. Please know that you are contributing to the ecosystem restoration success.
Unfortunately, despite the movement restrictions, local poaching has continued as indicated by the number of snares and traps found. As the nation accepts COVID-19 as endemic and opens for all kinds of human activities, we need to enhance our protection effort. With only about 100 Malayan tigers left in the wild, every tiger counts towards the survival of the subspecies. Therefore, we plan to expand our protection work, and resume Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT) Walks (see www.citizenactionfortigers.my) and our community outreach program next year.
Lastly, I apologize for not being able to communicate with you more often individually in more meaningful ways. And it is equally frustrating to me that I can’t openly share the details of our conservation success for fear of the negative consequences this attention might bring to the vulnerable wildlife. Yet, many entities and individuals have continued to support MYCAT’s work for many years, despite so little feedback, and I can’t help but believe that my lifework speaks for itself.
Please know that I see the name of every supporter. I've met many of you and some of you have become my dear friends over the years. And furthermore, some of you donate in honor of your loved ones. It is a great honor to receive such a gift of love on behalf of the tigers and their forests. The impact of your dollar stretches far beyond the present recovery of the wildlife. Besides obvious ecological services, the healthy ecosystem will provide humans with a much-needed buffer in the face of the increasingly uncertain future. Our Bateq friends will enjoy the benefit before any other humans will.
Thank you for doing what you can to support our tiger conservation work. Together we are reclaiming wild nature, magnificent tigers included.
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