The Vinod Sekhar Foundation has thrown its weight behind the critical work of the Persatuan Pelindung Harimau Malaysia (RIMAU), a nongovernmental organisation dedicated to the preservation of the Malayan tiger and its habitat.
The Malayan tiger, found only in Peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand, is its own subspecies. In the 1950s, it was estimated that 3,000 roamed our rainforests but the latest National Tiger Survey results indicate that there are less than 150 left in the wild.
Speaking at a joint media event today between the Vinod Sekhar Foundation and RIMAU in conjunction with World Wildlife Day, RIMAU president Lara Ariffin said that while the loss of habitat has contributed to the decreasing numbers in the past, the biggest threat to tigers today is poaching.
“We believe that the best way to save the Malayan tiger is to protect its habitat from poachers,” she added.
Apart from creating awareness of the urgency to save the tigers from poaching, RIMAU together with Perak State Parks Corporation has spearheaded the formation of the Menraq Patrol Unit, which is made up entirely of the local indigenous Jahai Community.
The creation of Menraq is to patrol the Royal Belum State Park – to search for and dispose of snares that are detrimental to the Malayan tiger while providing a livelihood for the local community.
The Vinod Sekhar Foundation is one of RIMAU’s first major funders, with a donation of RM300,000 which allowed the organisation to begin its efforts for the community patrolling unit.
The Foundation’s funds contribute towards Menraq’s training, equipment, and the wages for the Orang Asli community.
Representing the Foundation, Datuk Dr Vinod Sekhar said this year, which is the Year of The Tiger, is a poignant reminder that there is a lot more to be done to save the Malayan tiger.
“The Tiger symbolises courage and strength. Tigers are our national icon, the symbol of Malaysian pride. Unfortunately, looking at what is happening around us, the extinction of the Malayan tiger will happen sooner than we realise. It is time we wake up to the reality of the situation,” said chairman and chief executive of PETRA Group, Datuk Vinod.
“We intend to reverse this because failure is unacceptable. I hope that with our support and that of other organisations and corporations, these majestic beings will multiply in numbers and roar again,”
Sticking our heads in the sand pretending nothing is wrong is no longer an option. In this respect, corporations have a key role to play” he shared.
Also present at the event were Datin Dr Winy Sekhar, the chairperson of the Vinod Sekhar Foundation and David Mizan Hashim, vice president of RIMAU.
“One of the key things that attracted us to the project that RIMAU has in saving the tigers is that they also provide opportunities for the Orang Asli villages involved, to have jobs that maintains their dignity and their culture,” Datuk Vinod added.
David said it will take time to bring tiger numbers up to a sustainable level, they believe it is possible through this project in conjunction with the various efforts made by other NGOs and the government.
“If tigers are properly protected, their populations can recover quite quickly. We only have a small window of opportunity to save the Malayan tiger. We need more Malaysians to join in the fight,” he added.
RIMAU is also collaborating with several other partners and believes that this is a battle that must be fought together as the task at hand is monumental.
Lara added that Menraq, which started from five members in 2019 in Royal Belum, now consists of thirty. RIMAU also has a new team of ten patrollers in Amanjaya Forest Reserve where they are working with Perak State Forestry.
RIMAU is also looking for more funding to expand in other areas in Perak and to ensure maximum chance for survival for the Malayan tiger.