WE refer to the killing of a three-year old male tiger by a People’s Volunteer Corp (Rela) member because the tiger was spotted in a village and suspected of attacking poultry in Sungai Bayor, Perak.
We understand the villagers’ fear, but the matter should not have been handled in this manner. There is a clear and simple procedure for dealing with these human-tiger conflict situations that should be well known to agencies like Rela and its members. That procedure is to alert the Wildlife and National Parks Department first.
This incident is just one of many that raise our concern about Rela members abusing their firearms:
- In 2004, a Rela member was charged for killing a tiger in Gemas, Negeri Sembilan. The tiger was discovered with its internal organs missing and was believed to have been shot by the man after villagers sighted it in the forest.
- Last October, two Rela members were arrested by the Pahang Wildlife Department for using their shotguns to kill two mousedeer in Rompin, Pahang.
- Earlier this year nine Orang Asli, two of whom were Rela members, were detained for snaring and torturing a tiger in Sungkai, Perak.
Such incidents illustrate the reality of how Rela members are not always in tune with the national laws and policies relating to wildlife and the proper use of the firearms awarded to them.
In view of this, the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) calls for a review of Rela members’ firearm possession policy, standard operating procedures involving firearm use, as well as policies with regards to dealing with wildlife. Adding to this concern is the recent news of the government issuance of 48,823 shotgun licences.
There must also be closer and more effective communication among government agencies, especially in circumstances where the job of protecting wildlife and people overlap.
We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that human-tiger conflict arises as a result of loss of prey, loss of habitats through land clearance for industrial plantations such as oil palm and rubber, and poaching. So it is imperative to ensure these problems are tackled to keep both animals and people safe.
The government has been clear at policy level about its commitment to doubling the number of wild tigers by 2020 – stated unequivocally both in the National Tiger Action Plan and the 10th Malaysia Plan. Making these a reality is not solely the responsibility of the Wildlife Department and conservation organisations – the tiger graces our Coat of Arms, it is a national symbol and belongs to all of us, Rela members included.
24 June 2010
Mycat comprises the Malaysian Nature Society, Traffic Southeast Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society–Malaysia Programme and WWF-Malaysia.