From: WWF
Published September 14, 2007 03:26 PM

A chance encounter with a Malayan tiger

After camping for four days in the dense forests of Temengor Forest Reserve in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia with Mark Rayan Darmaraj and Shariff Mohamad, two field biologists from WWF-Malaysia, and Samir Mansingh from WWF-Nepal, we stopped near a settlement inhabited by the Orang Asli.



The indigenous Orang Aslis live in small camps in the forests where they fish and hunt with the help of blow pipes and poison arrows.



While taking a break, Mark offered a cigarette to an Orang Asli who stopped to check out our jeep. Orang Asli are fond of tobacco and the cigarette proved to be a good ice breaker. After a few puffs, our new acquaintance told us about a fresh wild boar kill that he had come across the previous evening on the bank of a river. He also told us that he saw some tiger tracks near the kill.


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The Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) was only identified as a separate sub-species from the Indo-chinese tiger in 2004. As most of the lowland forests on the Malay Peninsula have been lost to rubber and oil palm plantations, the tiger has been pushed into the upland forests. It is estimated that there are at least 500 individuals.



Seeing one in the wild is extremely rare.



Caught on camera


Excited by the news, we offered the Orang Asli another cigarette and asked if he would take us to the site. A short 20-minute walk off a logging road through leech infested scrub took us there.



The dead boar was lying on the river bank. No sight of the tiger, although the vegetation on the river bank was dense and could camouflage just about anything, even a 120-kilogramme predator.



Despite the risk, we dragged the boar and tied it to a tree. We then set up a hidden camera and left the site.



Two hours later a male Malayan tiger appeared in front of the camera. One minute later, the tiger and its kill were gone.



Although capturing this particular tiger on camera was by chance, WWF is using camera traps in several parts of Malaysia and elsewhere to document tigers in their natural habitat.



Habitat loss and poaching remains an immediate threat to most Asian big cat species.


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