Did You Know These Malaysian Animals Are Dying Off?

And it's all our fault. But we can also help turn things around for them.

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Did You Know These Malaysian Animals Are Dying Off?
Image: Cincinnati Zoo /
Malaysia has one of the most diverse animal wildlife in the world – it is even recognised as one of the 12 mega-diversity countries! We have one of the oldest rainforests right here – take that, the Amazon jungle! Still, despite the richness found in our flora and fauna, Malaysians are not the most environmentally aware folks around and we have no issue destroying our natural treasure if it meant bringing more development and convenience to our society. So, who are the ones paying the price for our future? It is the animals.

With deforestation and rampant poaching, the wildlife in Malaysia is under threat of extinction. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has even listed that 14% of Malaysia’s mammals are endangered, some that you might recognise. Find out which animals are under threat and how you can help out:

Sumatran Rhino

The tiniest of the rhinoceros species, the Sumatran Rhino is hairy, has two horns and loves to chill in the mud. Similar to the Malayan tigers, they are losing their natural habitat at a rapid pace and are prey to poachers that hunt them down for their horns. More bad news: no local Sumatran Rhino can be found in the wild in Malaysia anymore! Officially, Sumatran Rhino is labelled as extinct in Malaysia.

You see, it turns out that deforestation is making it hard for Sumatran Rhinos to meet each other and get down to business in having babies. So, these rhinos would roam in solitary by themselves, unloved, until their demise. However, all is not lost; meet Tam, Puntong and Iman – the last three surviving Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia!

Puntong, the three-legged rhino. (Image: Borneo Rhino Alliance)
Iman, the youngest of the three. (Image: Borneo Rhino Alliance)
Tam, the only male Sumatran Rhino in Malaysia left. (Image: Borneo Rhino Alliance)
Tam is described as an adorable middle-aged male rhino that “loves belly rubs”; Puntong is “gentle”; while Iman, the youngest female rhino, is the most vocal and “excitable”. However, when we say they’re “surviving”, we mean that they are STILL going through tough times. Puntong is named after the fact that she has only three legs, having lost one due to a poacher’s snare. Iman’s health has seen better days as she suffers from severe fibroids. The three are currently living in the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary within the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

If being the last of their kind in this country is not bad enough, we have ANOTHER bad news for the rhinos: the NGO that’s taking care of them, the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), have stopped receiving funding since June 2016! Funding is crucial because these rhinos need special care due their health conditions, and BORA has been actively trying to breed new rhinos using advanced reproductive technology.

So if you want to see more baby rhinos roaming around Malaysia, consider donating or volunteering for BORA so they can receive more funds! Even if the chance of seeing newborn rhinos in Malaysia is slim, these rhinos definitely deserve a peaceful retiring home considering it is our fault that their entire species have been driven to the point of extinction.  are currently living in the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary within the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Malayan Tiger

Image: National Geographic Kids
The Malayan tiger needs no introduction – every Malaysian knows the orange-striped creature. However, for an animal that’s all over our national logos, the Malayan tigers get no love from us. The Panthera Tigris Jacksoni is uniquely Malaysian as it is a subspecies of tigers that can only be found here, mostly in Pahang, Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu, although the numbers are decreasing fast. Due to deforestation and rapid urban development, what used to be thousands of tigers spread out in the forests of Peninsular Malaysia has dwindled to about 300 tigers in the wild.

Isolated and removed from their natural habitat, these tigers also face the threat of poachers. WWF Malaysia claims that you are more likely to find tigers on the shelves of traditional Asian medicine stores as they are hunted down for their so-called healing properties.

Here's where you can help put a stop to the cruelty. You can join forces with the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) to help thwart illegal poachers! Established since 2007, MYCAT hosts anti-poaching walks along the Sungai Yi Wildlife Corridor at the border of Taman Negara, known as a hot spot for poaching. Dubbed as a “CAT Walk”, volunteers can assist MYCAT and local authorities by dismantling tiger traps and snares, and reporting signs of illegal activity while taking in the beautiful natural landscape. Take that, poachers!

If you’re not big on walking, you can donate to MYCAT to support their cause or sponsor an Orang Asli guide to help with the local conservation efforts. You can even “adopt” a tiger through monthly donations with WWF Malaysia!

Malayan Tapir

Image: Annemarie Hasnain
Pandas do not have the monopoly in looking cute in black and white! The Tapirus Indicus is the biggest of all tapir species, the only one found in Asia and has first been mentioned by early scientists since 1819. The Malayan Tapir is famed for its black and white colours, and its flexible proboscis. Just like the panda, the tapir is also on a logo of an environmentalist group: the Malaysian Nature Society! And just like their panda pals, the Malayan Tapir is also endangered.

Unlike the tigers and rhinos, tapirs are not hunted down for their body parts. However, tapirs become victims to traps and snares meant for other wild animals hunted by poachers. There are about less than 1,500 tapirs left in the wild and their numbers are going down. Found in the Peninsular Malaysia, the tapirs are vulnerable to deforestation due to palm oil plantations among other human developments.

Saving the tapirs does not have a straightforward solution. In order to keep the number of tapirs up, the forests of Malaysia – the homes of tapirs and many other wild animals – must be protected from further development. Moreover, we, humans, can’t seem to leave them in peace what with our vehicles encroaching their space with dire consequences! From 2010 to 2015, 35 tapirs were reported dead from vehicle collisions, according to Perhilitan. It’s not an easy task but at least the government is putting in steps to make our highways more tapir-friendly. In conjunction with the Tapir Awareness Campaign 2016 last April, the government launched the "Safe Tapir Crossing” program that aims to plant several tapir crossing signs and amber lights around areas with known tapir sightings. Whether or not this would help halt the roadkill deaths of tapirs, only time will tell.

At the moment, there are no active campaigns involving the Malayan tapirs but Perhilitan is currently working hand in hand with Copenhagen Zoo in tapir conservation programs in Krau Wildlife Reserve, Pahang National Park and Sungai Dusun Wildlife Conservation Centre. The Sungai Dusun Wildlife Conservation Centre currently has about 12 tapirs with the goal to rehabilitate them and set them free again. But you don't have to travel so far just to catch sight of one. An easier way to get close to a tapir is to head down to our National Zoo in Gombak!

Ultimately, extinction is a real risk for the animals listed above, but they are not the only ones. There are many others, such as the orangutans, who need our help to survive in today’s world where there is less room for them to live. While the obstacles may seem large and sometimes impossible, one person can still make a difference. Whether it is handing monthly donations to the WWF for their conservation efforts or even walking the walk by volunteering for these NGOs, your help is priceless. It could be even as small as choosing not to buy palm oil for your kitchen in a bid to make a statement against the massive deforestation that affects these animals’ habitats. Raise your voice for these voiceless animals as it might be the last that you may hear of them.

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