Way back in the late 1990s, I took a nine-day trip along the Gua Musang-Cameron Highlands trail, which meandered 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 50 metres away, a tiger came to rest on a timber log nearby. This fully grown, massive tiger did not maul us.
On 8 January, 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 went 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 came to the rescue with firecrackers 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 account of the incident itself appears to be very much mauled too.
First, we hear that the rangers believed the tiger may have been 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 which has robbed the wildlife of its natural habitat.
It seems because the state of Kelantan could not get its petroleum royalties, it ended up depending on timber for income. Logging, mining and the 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 (wildlife) officers do not hold discussions with the villagers before carrying out their operations, leading to them going against Orang Asli customs.”
A harsher truth could lurk behind this story of a ‘mad’ tiger. As pointed out by the chairman of the Orang Asli community, “the government has breached our rights and exploited us,”
It 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 21 December last year – after 12 years, and featuring a maximum fine to RM1m 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 Orang Asli communities who live off the forests?
Two decades have 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 10 years, we will again discover that the mere 150 tigers today have been further reduced, along with many more species of wildlife, vegetation and trees that had previously withstood the test of time.
We are not only failing in our battle against corruption within the hallways of government – which has systemically taken away the comfort and happiness of the people, including the indigenous tribes in the forests. We have also suffered from untold stories about losing wildlife flora and fauna.
It is NATO (no action, talk only) all the way. – Malaysiakini