LETTER | Way back in the late 1990’s I took a nine day trip through the Gua Musang – Cameron Highlands trail, that went meandering through Orang Asli villages and abandoned timber trails. It was a shocking, heartbreaking experience. The way our forests were being raped and ripped off then was unbelievable.
One night, we camped near a waterfall. Some fifty meters away, a tiger came to rest on a timber log nearby. This fully grown, massive tiger did not maul us.
On Jan 8 the media reported about an Orang Asli man mauled to death by a tiger in Gua Musang at Kampung Sau near Pos Bihai.
According to reports, a tiger attacked and killed a native. The villagers had gone looking for the missing person and found his mauled dead body.
They saw the tiger and threw spears at it. The animal then disappeared into the jungle. The police were informed and forest rangers come to the rescue with fire crackers and guns. The tiger attacked the rangers and it was shot dead.
Nice story on efficiency. We can now go to bed with peace of mind.
No! The incident itself appears to be very much mauled too.
First we hear that the rangers believe that the tiger may be mad because it seems it was suffering from rabies.
Then a group of Orang Asli representing the Temiar tribe submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister's Office hoping Putrajaya would take concrete actions to stop the rampant, indiscriminate deforestation activities in Gua Musang that robbed the wildlife of their natural habitat.
It seems that because the State of Kelantan could not get its petroleum royalties, it ended up depending on timber for income. Logging, mining and opening of large scale plantations were deemed to be the root cause of tigers hunting and killing humans.
The ‘mad’ tiger has raised more alarms. The proposed Nenggiri hydroelectric dam project in Gua Musang is bound to pose a major ecological threat.
According to Mohd Syafiq Dendi Abdullah, chairman of Jaringan Kampung Pos Simpor, “Perhilitan officers do not hold discussions with the villagers before carrying out their operations, leading to them going against Orang Asli customs."
There is a highly, probable evidence that behind this story of a ‘mad’ tiger lurks a harsher truth. As pointed out by the chairman of the Orang Asli community, “the government has breached our rights and exploited us,”
It so also happens that just the other day the prime minister issued a statement on his government’s plans to rescue and save our apex predator, the ‘Malayan’ tiger along with all other fast diminishing wildlife.
Citing the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 which was amended in Parliament on December 21 last year – after twelve years, and featuring a maximum fine to RM1 million and a prison sentence up to 15 years for wildlife criminals, Ismail Sabri Yaakob warned that our national pride and icon, the Malayan Tiger “would be lost for good if no immediate action is taken to protect the apex predator, which is currently reported to number less than 150 in the wild.”
How long have we been promising to save our forests? How long have we been assuring the right to livelihood to our Orang Asli communities who live off the forests?
Two decades of has passed. Today if a tiger is attacking humans it is for that same reason – we encroached indiscriminately and have never stopped.
Penalties and threats of stiffer fines can't solve this problem. Come another ten years we will again discover that the mere 150 tigers today is further reduced, not to mention many more species of wildlife and vegetation as well as the trees that withstood the test of time.
Not only are we grappling and failing in our battle against corruption within the hallways of government that has systemically taken away the comfort and happiness of the rakyat including our indigenous tribes in the forests, but we also suffer from untold stories about losing the wildlife – flora and fauna.
It is NATO (no action, talk only) all the way.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.