By Wong Pui May
The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) is calling for urgent and decisive action to save the sambar deer, a critical food source for wild tigers and a species that is already missing from several protected forests in the country.
The sambar deer, locally known as rusa, is facing extinction in Peninsular Malaysia due to poaching for its meat and for sport. Despite a six-year moratorium on hunting sambar deer that was put into place in 2009, scientists have found no evidence of population recovery to date.
The sambar deer has not been captured in camera trap studies in selected forests in Kelantan and Pahang, and are seen less frequently in areas studied in Johor by MYCAT partner organisations.
Rather than waiting until the moratorium runs out in 2014, MYCAT calls for an immediate change of the sambar deer's legal status – from hunted species to totally protected species – under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.
Total protection means absolutely no hunting or trade. Under the Act, penalties for hunting or keeping totally protected wildlife can reach RM300,000 and/or 10 years jail.
This call is prompted by research in northern Taman Negara National Park, Pahang, where MYCAT found that beyond the western border of the park, the sambar deer is nearly extinct due to poaching. Even inside the park, it has remained a rarity since the 1990s. Meanwhile, tiger population in the same area has plummeted over the past decade. In southern Pahang, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-Malaysia Programme has also not recorded any sambar deer on camera traps.
In Kelantan, WWF-Malaysia did not record any evidence of the sambar deer in scientific studies conducted in 2004, 2005 and 2012. More....