KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia has started trapping and relocating tigers after three people were killed by the critically endangered creatures in the past two months, officials said Thursday.
Eleven cage traps and 20 cameras have been installed in recent weeks in the forested area of Gua Musang district, in the northeastern state of Kelantan, where the deadly attacks happened.
There have been five attacks resulting in four deaths in Gua Musang since 2021, Mohamad Hafid Rohani, director of the Wildlife and National Parks department in Kelantan, told AFP.
Three of the killings were in October and November this year.
“We are very concerned. This is the worst tiger-related deaths in decades in Malaysia,” Hafid said.
The traps — rectangular cages wrapped in palm leaves so they blend into the forest — have been set up in “hot spots” where attacks took place.
One has been placed in a palm oil plantation.
Live goats are kept in enclosures nearby to lure the tigers into the traps with their bleating.
The Malayan tiger is classified as critically endangered by protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
WWF Malaysia estimates there are fewer than 150 of the animals still left in the wild.
Hafid said 35 tigers were estimated to live in Kelantan.
Attacks on humans by the tiger are rare, but such incidents have been known to occur in areas where developments encroach on the animals’ habitat.
Last month, one female tiger was trapped and taken to the National Wildlife Rescue Centre in neighbouring Perak state, Hafid said.
But Hafid admitted that officials were “not certain if it was responsible for any of the attacks on humans”.
Two of the people killed since 2021 were plantation workers while the other victims were residents, Gua Musang police chief Superintendant Sik Choon Foo said.
Choon Foo said post-mortem examinations of the victims and “tiger footprints” found at the scene of each killing pointed to the big cats as culprits.
A female tiger that seriously injured a man in July 2021 was caught and placed in a sanctuary, said Hafid.
But the tiger responsible for a deadly attack in January 2022 was shot dead after it went for wildlife officials, he said.
Wildlife officials have warned residents to stay indoors or go outside in groups.
About 3,000 Malayan tigers once roamed the country’s jungles in the 1950s, and the big cat is regarded as Malaysia’s national animal.
But its population has declined over the decades due to a loss of habitat from development and agricultural expansion, as well as poaching.
Wildlife Conservation Society country director Mark Rayan Darmaraj said one reason for the attacks on humans could be the decline in the wild boar population — one of the tiger’s main prey — due to African Swine Fever.
Rayan said relocating the big cats was a “sad situation”, but it was the “most practical measure” for creatures that have been confirmed to have attacked or killed humans to prevent them from striking again. – AFP / pic TMR FILE