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Panthera tigris ssp. jacksoni

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CARNIVORA FELIDAE

Scientific Name: Panthera tigris ssp. jacksoni
Species Authority: Luo, Kim, Johnson, van der Walt, Martenson, Yuhki, Miquelle, Uphyrkina, Goodrich, Quigley, Tilson, Brady, Martelli, Subramaniam, McDougal, Hean, Huang, Pan, Karanth, Sunquist, Smith & O'Brien, 2004
Parent Species:
Common Name(s):
English Malayan Tiger
Taxonomic Notes: In 2004, the Tigers of Peninsular Malaysia were recognized as a new subspecies, Panthera tigris jacksoni, when a genetic analysis found that they are distinct in mtDNA and micro-satellite sequences from Tigers of northern Indochina, P. t. corbetti (Luo et al. 2004). However, Mazak and Groves (2006) found no clear morphological differences (in cranial measurements or pelage characteristics) between Tigers from Peninsular Malaysia and those elsewhere in Indochina, and argue for inclusion in P. t. corbetti. P. t. jacksoni is provisionally accepted here. The geographic division between P. t. jacksoni and P. t. corbetti is likely to be at the south of Isthmus of Kra where forests are fragmented and a possible genetic fixation of melanism in Leopards P. pardus was documented (Kawanishi et al. 2010). Taxonomy is currently under review by the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered C1+2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-04-27
Assessor(s): Kawanishi, K.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Hunter, L., Duckworth, J.W., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Lanz, T. & Breitenmoser, U.
Contributor(s): Clements, R., Gumal, M., Krishnasamy, K., Rayan, M., Shepherd, C. & Lynam, A.
Justification:
The Malayan Tiger qualifies for listing as Critically Endangered (CR) under criterion C1 because the best available evidence indicates that the number of mature individuals is likely less than 250 animals and has declined >25% in one generation (seven years, see Panthera tigris species account). The estimated nationwide population continues to decline from roughly 3,000 in the 1950s (Locke 1954) to 500 between 1990 (Topani 1990) and 2003 (Kawanishi et al. 2003) to an estimate of 250-340 in 2013 (Hedges et al. unpubl., Kawanishi unpubl., WCS Malaysia Programme unpubl. WWF Malaysia unpubl.). This indicates a greater than 25% decline in approximately the last generation. Small sample sizes are a challenge to reliably estimate the population size of rare species. Although these estimates are only approximations and not based on a nationwide Tiger survey, compared to the largely guesswork of the earlier figures based on expert knowledge and limited information, the current estimate is inferred from a range of mean density estimates from seven population studies conducted across all three Tiger landscapes identified in the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan (DWNP 2008) between 2004 and 2013 (Rayan 2007, Rayan and Mohamad 2009, Rayan 2012, Hedges et al. unpubl., Kawanishi unpubl., WCS Malaysia Programme unpubl. WWF Malaysia unpubl.) and the estimated areas occupied by Tigers based on the year 2000 figure and the annual rate of loss since 1980 (DWNP 2010). Differences in methodologies and accuracy make the direct comparison difficult, but we believe that the best available evidence suggests population decline. The estimated 250-340 adult Tigers translate to the effective population size of 80-120 breeding adults.

Repeated studies of Tiger populations over one generation exist only in the two areas: Gunung Basor Forest Reserve in 2004-05 (Rayan and Shariff 2009) and 2012 (WWF-Malaysia unpubl. data); and Taman Negara Pahang in 1999 (Kawanishi and Sunquist 2004) and 2011 (Kawanishi unpubl. data). In these areas, the density estimates declined by at least 50 and 90%, respectively.

The Tiger habitat has declined from the original extent of 98,818 km2 prior to the 1970s to 75,079 km2 in 1980 to 55,387 km2 in 2000 at the average annual loss of 1.51% between 1980 and 2000 (DWNP 2010). With that rate, the projected tiger habitat in 2014 is 44,761 km2. Only 15% of the tiger habitat is in Protected Areas (PAs) (DWNP 2010) and forests outside PAs continued to be cleared for monoculture plantations. In 2005, the Malaysian Cabinet tasked the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities to initiate an aggressive programme to develop forest plantations throughout the country. Under this programme, tree plantations are being established via the conversion of privately or state owned forests, including forest reserves. Natural forests within forest reserves converted to rubber plantations for example increased >1500% from 22 km2 in 2005 to 349 km2 in 2012 (FDPM 2012). According to the official publication, including other species such as acacia and teak, the total loss of the natural forest inside forest reserves as of 2010 was 1,087 km2. This trend of habitat loss is expected to continue as the government has embarked on expanding commercial forest plantation programmes to 3,750  km2 over a 15 year period from 2006 to 2020 while providing soft loans and tax exemption incentives (MPIC 2009).

Across rapidly shrinking global tiger range (Walston et al. 2010, Goodrich et al. 2015), the growing affluent Chinese population is fuelling the demand for illegally sourced Tiger parts (Nowell 2007, Anonymous 2014). Analysis of government seizure records involving Tigers across Asia found that parts equivalent to at least 1,425 Tigers have been seized from 2000-2013 (Stoner and Pervushina 2013). This analysis revealed that in Malaysia, parts equivalent to at least 94 Tigers were seized over 33 seizures in the same period. The threat to Tigers from illegal commercial trade was further illustrated in Malaysia when in 2012, Tiger parts representing at least 22 Tigers were seized in the State of Kedah, making this the largest seizure of Tigers ever in Malaysia (Shepherd et al. 2013). Tigers even in the three priority areas identified in the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan (DWNP 2008) are not safe from the poaching threat as indicated by >952 snares uncovered and 29 multi-national poachers arrested just between 2010 and 2011 (MYCAT 2012).

Prey base depletion was considered a leading threat to Tigers across much of their range (Sanderson et al. 2006). Thus the population decline may not be reversible where Tiger habitats (DWNP 2010) or the principle prey species, such as Sambar Rusa unicolor, (Kawanishi et al. 2014), Bearded Pig Sus barbatus (Kawanishi et al. 2006) and Banteng Bos javanicus (DWNP 2010) were lost. Sambar populations have declined in both abundance and distribution even inside PAs where they were not adequately protected.

The Malayan Tiger is also listed as CR under criteria C2a(i). Assuming that each Tiger landscape is fully occupied, there is no subpopulation >50 mature individuals at the estimated mean Tiger density of <0.60 adult individuals/100km2 based on the recent population studies mentioned above.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Historically, Tigers were found in the forest throughout Peninsular Malaysia. In 2003, the first comprehensive GIS mapping of the Tiger distribution was done using the data collected by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks 1991 and 2003 (Kawanishi et al. 2003). It showed that 51% or 66,211 km2 of Peninsular Malaysia was considered suitable Tiger habitats, including peat swamps to montane forests and even some non-forest lands. Of this, 6% fell outside forests such as in abandoned agricultural fields, early-succession scrub lands, and pockets of swampy woodlands in plantations.

Nearly 90% of the suitable Tiger habitat was found in the four large states with relatively low human densities: Pahang, Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu. Small states such as Perlis and Malacca and the highly developed Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya had lost their Tigers by then, though Tiger have been captured or sighted in forest reserves adjacent to Kuala Lumpur as recently as 2001. The few Tigers remaining in Negri Sembilan were most likely extirpated by 2014.

The Tiger habitat was categorized into the following three types depending on evidence of Tiger presence, forest status and forest connectivity:

1. Confirmed Tiger Habitats (37,674 km2 or 29% of total land area) with good conservation value
These habitats are either Protected Areas (PAs) of Permanent Reserved Forests (PRFs) with evidence of Tigers recorded between 1991 and 2003.
All PAs (n=4) greater than 400 km2 in size in IUCN categories I-IV (IUCN 1994) were in this category. The conservation value of these habitats was considered good because of the protected status of the forests combined with evidence of the presence of Tigers.

2. Expected Tiger Habitats (11,655 km2 or 9% of total land area) with fair conservation value.
These forest blocks were physically connected to confirmed tiger habitats but had yet to be adequately surveyed. Tigers were expected to occur in these habitats because of the physical connectivity. The conservation value of these areas could be raised once Tiger presence is confirmed.

3. Possible Tiger Habitats (16,882 km2 or 13% of total land area) with marginal conservation value.
These areas included forests that were isolated from confirmed Tiger habitats. It also included areas with natural vegetation not defined as “forests” by the Forestry Department (e.g., scrublands and abandoned agricultural fields), but where Tigers were recorded between 1991 and 2003. Because the future of these lands was uncertain, their conservation value was marginal, except for areas considered as potential corridors connecting confirmed/expected Tiger habitats.

In the subsequent decade, much of the Possible Tiger Habitats were converted to land use not compatible with Tiger existence and the habitat quality within the Confirmed and Expected Tiger Habitats above degraded if not lost in terms of the large prey base and forest connectivity.
Countries:
Native:
Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The estimated nationwide population continues to decline from roughly 3,000 in the 1950s (Locke 1954) to 500 between 1990 (Topani 1990) and 2003 (Kawanishi et al. 2003) to an estimate of 250-340 in 2013 (Hedges et al. unpubl., Kawanishi unpubl., WCS Malaysia Programme unpubl. WWF Malaysia unpubl.). This indicates a greater than 25% decline in approximately the last generation. Small sample sizes are a challenge to reliably estimate the population size of rare species. Although these estimates are only approximations and not based on a nationwide Tiger survey, compared to the largely guesswork of the earlier figures based on expert knowledge and limited information, the current estimate is inferred from a range of mean density estimates from seven population studies conducted across all three Tiger landscapes identified in the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan (DWNP 2008) between 2004 and 2013 (Rayan 2007, Rayan and Mohamad 2009, Rayan 2012, Hedges et al. unpubl., Kawanishi unpubl., WCS Malaysia Programme unpubl. WWF Malaysia unpubl.) and the estimated areas occupied by Tigers based on the year 2000 figure and the annual rate of loss since 1980 (DWNP 2010). Differences in methodologies and accuracy make the direct comparison difficult, but the best available evidence suggests population decline. The estimated 250-340 adult Tigers translate to the effective population size of 80-120 breeding adults.

Repeated studies of Tiger populations over one generation exist only in the two areas: Gunung Basor Forest Reserve in 2004-05 (Rayan and Shariff 2009) and 2012 (WWF-Malaysia unpubl. data); and Taman Negara Pahang in 1999 (Kawanishi and Sunquist 2004) and 2011 (Kawanishi unpubl. data). In these areas, the density estimates declined by at least 50 and 90%, respectively.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The Tiger habitat has declined from the original extent of 98,818 km2 prior to the 1970s to 75,079 km2 in 1980 to 55,387 km2 in 2000 at the average annual loss of 1.51% between 1980 and 2000 (DWNP 2010). With that rate, the projected Tiger habitat in 2014 is 44,761 km2. Only 15% of the Tiger habitat is in Protected Areas (DWNP 2010) and forests outside PAs continued to be cleared for monoculture plantations. In 2005, the Malaysian Cabinet tasked the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities to initiate an aggressive programme to develop forest plantations throughout the country. Under this programme, tree plantations are being established via the conversion of privately or state owned forests, including forest reserves. Natural forests within forest reserves converted to rubber plantations for example increased >1500% from 22 km2 in 2005 to 349 km2 in 2012 (FDPM 2012). According to the official publication, including other species such as acacia and teak, the total loss of the natural forest inside forest reserves as of 2010 was 1,087 km2. This trend of habitat loss is expected to continue as the government has embarked on expanding commercial forest plantation programmes to 3,750  km2 over a 15 year period from 2006 to 2020 while providing soft loans and tax exemption incentives (MPIC 2009).

Understanding of Tiger ecology comes mostly from studies conducted in India, Nepal and Russia. Telemetry research or food habits of individual Malayan Tigers have not been conducted.

Availability of a sufficient prey base of large ungulates is the Tiger's major habitat requirement: "wild pigs and deer of various species are the two prey types that make up the bulk of the Tiger's diet, and in general Tigers require a good population of these species in order to survive and reproduce" (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). Based on studies, Karanth et al. (2004) estimate that Tigers need to kill 50 large prey animals per year. Tigers are opportunistic predators, however, and their diet includes birds, fish, rodents, insects, amphibians, reptiles in addition to other mammals such as primates and porcupines. Tigers can also take ungulate prey much larger than themselves, including large bovids (Water Buffalo, Gaur, Banteng), elephants and rhinos (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

Tigers are generally solitary, with adults maintaining exclusive territories, or home ranges. Adult female home ranges seldom overlap, whereas male ranges typically overlap from 1–3 females, a typical felid pattern of social organization. Tiger home ranges are small where prey is abundant - e.g., female home ranges in Chitwan, Nepal averaged 20 km2, while in the Russian Far East they are much larger at 450 km2 (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). Similarly, reported Tiger densities range from 11.65 adult Tigers per 100 km2 where prey is abundant (India's Nagarhole National Park) to as low as 0.13–0.45 per 100 km2 where prey is more thinly distributed, as in Russia's Sikhote Alin Mountains (Nowell and Jackson 1996). The highest density of the Malayan Tiger was estimated at  1.95 per 100 km2 in a protected area with relatively abundant Sambar compared to other protected areas (Rayan 2012).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In the early 1990s, it was feared that poaching of Tigers for the use of their bones in traditional Asian medicine would drive the Tiger to extinction (Nowell 2000). Despite strong international action to eliminate it, illegal trade persists (Nowell 2007). Tiger bone has long been considered to hold anti-inflammatory properties, with some support from Chinese medical research, but many consider the effect to be more psychological than pharmacological (Nowell and Xu 2007). Although all countries have banned use and manufacture of Tiger bone, illegal production persists in several Asian countries, especially in China, Malaysia, and Viet Nam (Nowell 2007). In China there are several operations engaged in intensive breeding ("farming" of Tigers), with the captive population reportedly reaching over 6,000. They are pressuring the government to allow them to produce Tiger products, and several have already engaged in illegal production of Tiger bone wine. Market surveys indicate that medicinal use of Tiger bone has decreased since China banned Tiger bone in 1993. Tiger farming perpetuates and threatens to re-ignite consumer demand (Nowell and Xu 2007). In 2008 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) adopted a Decision stating that “Tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives” (CITES 2008).

There are other illegal markets for Tiger products, especially skins, but also teeth and claws (particularly in Sumatra: Ng and Nemora 2007), contributing to poaching pressure. But many Tigers are also killed by people seeking to protect life and livestock. Conflict-killed Tigers can also feed into the illegal trade. Many Tiger products in trade are faked, a legal "grey area" in several countries which also perpetuates consumer demand (Nowell 2000).

Tiger poaching is driven by less by poverty and more by wealth (TRAFFIC 2008), which is putting expensive illegal Tiger products within reach of a rapidly growing group of potential consumers. TRAFFIC has documented rising levels of recent illegal trade within the Tiger range countries, with seizures and confiscations in 2007–2009 averaging the equivalent of approximately 150 Tigers per year (Verheij et al. 2010). Interdictions represent just a fraction of the true level of illegal trade, indicating that Tigers are gravely imperilled by black market demand.

Analysis of government seizure records involving tigers across Asia found that parts equivalent to at least 1,425 tigers have been seized from 2000-2013 (Stoner and Pervushina 2013). This analysis revealed that in Malaysia, parts equivalent to at least 94 tigers were seized over 33 seizures in the same period. The threat to tigers from illegal commercial trade was further illustrated in Malaysia when in 2012, tiger parts representing at least 22 tigers were seized in the State of Kedah, making this the largest seizure of tigers ever in Malaysia (Shepherd et al. 2013). Tigers even in the three priority areas identified in the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan (DWNP 2008) are not safe from the poaching threat as indicated by 2,241 snares and 1,728 illegal camp sites destroyed by NGOs between 2010 and 2013 (MYCAT 2014).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Illegal trade in high-value Tiger products including skins, bones, meat and tonics is a primary threat to Tigers, which has led to their recent disappearance from broad areas of otherwise suitable habitat, and continues at unsustainable rates.

Asia is a densely populated and rapidly developing region, bringing huge pressures to bear on the large wild areas required for viable Tiger populations. Conversion of forest land to agriculture and silviculture, commercial logging, and human settlement are the main drivers of Tiger habitat loss. With their substantial dietary requirements, Tigers require a healthy large ungulate prey base, but these species are also under heavy human subsistence hunting pressure and competition from domestic livestock.

Tiger attacks on livestock and people can lead to intolerance of Tigers by neighbouring communities and presents an ongoing challenge to managers to build local support for Tiger conservation.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In 2010, the Year of the Tiger on the Asian lunar calendar, tigers were the focus of substantial conservation effort and investment. At a “Tiger Summit” held in St Petersburg, Russia in November 2010, the 13 Tiger Range Countries adopted a Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP 2010). The goal is to effectively double the number of wild tigers by 2022 through actions to: i) effectively preserve, manage, enhance and protect tiger habitats; ii) eradicate poaching, smuggling and illegal trade of tigers, their parts and derivatives; iii) cooperate in transboundary landscape management and in combating illegal trade; iv) engage with indigenous and local communities; v) increase the effectiveness of Tiger and habitat management; and vi) restore Tigers to their former range. The Tiger Summit was attended by Heads of State including Russia, China, Lao PDR, Nepal and Bangladesh, and represents a policy commitment to tiger conservation of unprecedented significance.

Malaysia was ahead of the game. In 2009 Malaysia's National Biodiversity and Biotechnology Council, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, adopted the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan (NTCAP). With the goal of doubling the country’s Tiger population from then 500 to 1,000 by the year 2020, NTCAP lays out 80 detailed actions to be implemented by over 40 stakeholders, from the bottom up, on the ground researcher right up to the Economic Planning Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department. Strong leadership, coordination, communication and monitoring are keys to the success of the plan.

These 1,000 Tigers were to be conserved in what’s called the Central Forest Spine, a network of forest complexes connected by green linkages. Together, they form 51,000 km2 of contiguous forest along the length of Peninsular Malaysia, much like a long green spine.

In the Central Forest Spine, NTCAP identifies three priority areas and four priority corridors. The priority areas are Belum-Temengor Complex in the north, Taman Negara National Park in the interior, and Endau-Rompin Complex in the south. The priority corridors enable tigers from the priority areas to disperse to nearby forests. While the northern-most corridor, along the East-West highway, is meant to ensure the contiguity of Belum-Temengor, the southern-most corridor does the same for Endau-Rompin. Two corridors connect Taman Negara to its adjacent forests along Sungai Yu (Yu River) to the west of the park and along Sungai Deka to the north of the park.

The progress of the NTCAP implementation has been annually monitored by the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) Secretariats' Office and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Although gradual improvements have been made in the number of actions completed every year, the overall level of implementation has been unsatisfactory. This has culminated in the continued loss of Malaysia’s remaining tigers and natural forests. The main reasons for this are insufficient levels of resources,  government committeemen, and public interest.

With the new population estimate of 250-340 adult Tigers and diminishing prey base and natural forests, it is biologically impossible to reach the NTCAP target by 2020. As the game changer, the conservation community has called to the highest level of the government to set up a dedicated National Tiger Conservation Authority or "Tiger Task Force" to effectively coordinate and monitor the NTCAP implementation with adequate representation from state and federal government agencies and professional Tiger conservationists. This body would also be able to make executive decisions on policy, allocation of resources, enforcement and land management favourable for Tiger conservation. For the time being, anti-poaching effort at the priority areas is strengthened by multi-agency enforcement teams, including military personnel. The Tiger conservation community will convene in 2015 to re-strategize NTCAP.

Citation: Kawanishi, K. 2015. Panthera tigris ssp. jacksoni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 04 August 2015.
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