| Nov 2, 2022
Tenacity in the face of extinction
Elephant mother with her calf.
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.
Eco-bridge: tall enough for crossing elephants.
Fresh elephant dung by the eco-bridge.
Elephants in the wildlife corridor.