We have entered the Year of the Tiger, the year of hope for wild Malayan tigers.
While news of heightened awareness for tigers floods the media, articles about a tiger brutally killed in the Bukit Tapah Forest Reserve in Perak, Malaysia, speaks of the harsh reality faced by our Malayan tigers.
Responding to reports that a tiger had attacked an Orang Asli, the Perak Department of Wildlife and National Parks made the gruesome find of a dead tiger with a wire snare still entwined around its severed left forelimb. The tiger was trapped in the snare for a few days, shot in the eyes and other parts of its body and attacked with spears fashioned out of hard palm stalks. It is also believed to have been poisoned.
Seven Orang Asli, including the man who was attacked by the tiger, are now under investigation in connection with this case.
So what will it be for these seven if they are found guilty under the due process of the law? Will they each receive the maximum sentence of a five-year jail term and RM15,000 fine for killing a tigeras provided by the Protection of Wild Life Act 1972? Or just another slap on the wrist so the carnage can continue?
In 2005, a man in Tumpat, Kelantan, was found guilty of illegal possession of a dead tiger. The tiger had been butchered into four pieces and stored in his freezer. For that offence, he paid a fine of RM7,000 and walked out a free man.
Clearly, our values are misplaced. Take the case involving the theft of 11 cans of Tiger beer and Guinness Stout worth RM70 in January 2010 where a man was sentenced to five years imprisonment .
We urge the Attorney-General’s Chambers to treat wildlife poaching cases with urgency and importance. The government must put into effect a penalty system that truly matches the severity and unspeakable cruelty of this crime.
Swift enforcement action is highly commendable but will count for little if the guilty parties are let off lightly, as is often the case. It is time to send a clear signal to poachers, middlemen and syndicate operators that Malaysia is serious about protecting its wild tigers.
Surely our tigers are worth more than RM70?
The writer is the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MyCat) programme coordinator.