Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 83 – The Malayan Tiger

Malayan Tiger at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Photographer: Greg Hume

“As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together”
Isaac Bashevis Singer

Regrettably, the magnificent tiger has been exploited for body parts and skins for centuries, and the Malayan tiger is no exception. Much is done in many countries to try and save tigers from extinction.  In Thailand, the home of the Malayan tiger, there are 20,000 forest rangers employed to protect all wildlife, but this is becoming an increasingly dangerous occupation.  In September Malayan Tiger in water2013, two rangers were fired upon by five poachers they had tracked to the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Thailand.  On their way, the poachers had poisoned various animals, which the rangers suspected had been left behind as tiger bait (although, it is known they were hunting for various species). Four of the rangers were shot  in the incident, and two later died.  To add to the tragedy of the deaths of the rangers, when shots were exchanged, shockingly, the hunters were seen to be armed with AK-47 and carbine automatic rifles.  This does not imply poaching for subsistence food.  Instead, it smites heavily of terrorist activity.

Sadly, these incidents have become commonplace across Asia.  In the past four years, forty-two forest rangers have been killed on duty in Thailand alone.  These poorly paid, hard-working, dedicated rangers could do with a lot more support from the rest of the world as well as their own people.

A large part of the market for body parts and skins is created by the demand of middle class Asian consumers, in particular the fast-growing middle classes of China  (many of whom think elephants shed their tusks naturally), and it is not slowing down.  The demand for young animals as pets and exhibits has also become huge.  But, more often, it is terrorism which benefits most from these killings and live trade.  The trade in illegal wildlife, dead or alive, is now worth an estimated nineteen billion dollars a year.

Under such adverse circumstances, it seems only matter of time before the beautiful Malayan tiger, like so many other species, is lost to this world forever.

Slightly smaller than their Indian counterparts, female Malayan tigers can reach an average of seven feet ten inches in length, and Malayan Tiger and cubmales as much as eight feet six inches. They can stand at anything between two and four feet high at the shoulder and weigh between one hundred and four pounds and two hundred and eighty-four pounds.

The tiger’s orange, black and white striped coat is designed as camouflage in the forest or long grass.  It has huge front paws with five retractable claws on each.  It has incredibly powerful jaws housing large canines with which it is able to grab its prey and suffocate it.  In fact, in favourable circumstances it would have a more than fair chance of defending itself against its human predators.

Not always successful in every attack, one in twenty seems to be the kill rate, tigers can eat up to eighty pounds of meat in one feeding session.  The rest they will cover and come back to later, having already marked their territory with deep claw marks on trees.

Malayan tiger - Three-month-old Malayan tiger triplets at San Diego ZooThere is no specific breeding season for tigers.  It is an all-year-round event which is followed by a gestation period of roughly fourteen weeks.  Females birth in deep grass hollows or caves. Normally, a litter will consist of three cubs weighing about three pounds each.  They will stay with their mother for the first eighteen months to two years of their lives, in which time they will be taught all they need to equip them for a life of independence.

Tropical forests, grasslands, and subtropical moist broadleaf forests.
The southern tip of Thailand and the Malaysian Peninsular.
What they eat
Deer, wild boar, sun bears and occasional livestock.
Habitat destruction due to logging operations and development of roads for the same, and conversion of forests to agriculture or commercial plantations.   Poaching for skins and Traditional Chinese medicine, and human conflict.  An ever-diminishing prey base.
Status: Endangered
The Malayan Tiger  (Panthera tigris ssp. jacksoni)  is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered.  It is also listed on  CITES: Appendix I.  Only five hundred or so Malayan tigers are still thought to exist in the wild.  Many are kept in captivity around the world. In the wild, most live outside protected areas.
Various agencies are addressing the issue of the Malayan tiger.  The World Wide Fund for Nature, for example, has initiated programs focusing on raising awareness, education and the reduction of human conflict.

Related Articles
How to Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade from Funding Terrorist Groups
Two forest rangers killed in gun battle with tiger hunters 
Scientists: to save the Malayan tiger, save its prey
Thousands come together for the Malayan Tiger!
Little Rock Zoo: 5-year-old tiger gives birth to 4 cubs

Related posts by me
Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae)
Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 32 – Proboscis Monkey

Proboscis monkey 3

Photo: Frank Wouters

With its huge fleshy nose and its World War II flying jacket, this endearing primate is bound to raise a smile on most faces.  A native of Borneo, it emits sounds eminently suited to its nasal abnormalities – it honks.  From a special honk for reassuring infants to its alarm honk when sensing danger, it manages a whole range of honk tones.  And, its nose stands out straight when doing this.  The male’s is so large it gets in the way of eating, hanging down over its mouth.  Only the male of the species has this nose.  Another bizarre distinction of the proboscis monkey is the large pot belly.

But, that’s not all.  They’ve managed to dispel any ideas that monkeys do not like water. They are incredible swimmers.  They have partially webbed feet and a penchant for leaping from high branches into the water.  They swim on or under the surface.  They can swim submerged for up to twenty metres at a time.  They appear to do the breast stroke as they move swiftly through the water – amazing!   If they have the misfortune to encounter a crocodile, they have a plan.  They slide quietly into the water and glide silently past it, taking care not to splash.

They are the largest of Asia’s monkeys, with males reaching up to fifty pounds in weight; the females being more or less half of that.  Their coats of fur are light brown on the bulk of the body becoming red near the shoulders and head.  They have grey arms, legs and tails.  Their chambered stomach harbours symbiotic bacteria to aid digestion.

Groups of proboscis monkeys (troops) typically consist of one male to six females – something on the lines of a harem.   The breeding season is from February until November.   Females give birth to just one baby at a time.  The gestation period lasts about 166 days.  Babies are usually born during the night.  All the females in the troop pitch in to help with the new babies, who stay with their mothers for about a year, or until she gives birth again – whichever comes first.

Riparian-riverine forests, coastal lowland forests (including mangroves) where tidal flooding occurs,  peat swamps and freshwater swamp forests.
Borneo: Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia
What they eat

Leaves, seeds,  fruits and occasionally insects.  The proboscis monkeys will only eat unripe fruit.
The sugars in ripe fruits can ferment in their stomachs and cause fatal bloating. [1]

Habitat destruction through land clearance and conversion, logging and settlement.  Oil palm plantations have depleted huge tracts of their habitat.  Forest fires have also had a massive impact.  In 1997 to 1998, fires decimated a huge proportion of what remained at the time.
Its natural predators include crocodiles and the clouded leopard.  In some parts, proboscis monkey-meat is considered a delicacy.  And, here we go again, they are hunted for traditional Chinese medicine.  In their case,  for their intestinal bezoar stones.   
It really is time these people stopped eating and grinding up everything with a heartbeat – BEFORE they are entirely bereft of wildlife.

Status: Endangered
The proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) was listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature on its IUCN Red List as Endangered in the year 2000, with an estimated 50% reduction in the population in the following ten years.  In 2008, numbers were thought to be less than 6,000.  The conversion of land to palm oil plantations is an alarming and escalating problem, which can only be addressed by the consumer choosing not to buy palm oil based products.

“The more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man”
Mahatma Gandhi