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Totally protect the sambar deer, or lose it forever

 
27 Aug 2013

The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) is an alliance of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia Programme and WWF-Malaysia, supported by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia, for joint implementation of the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan for Malaysia.


Kuala Lumpur, 27 August 2013 – The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) is calling for urgent and decisive action to save the sambar deer, a critical food source for wild tigers and a species that is already missing from several protected forests in the country.

The sambar, locally known as rusa, is facing extinction in Peninsular Malaysia due to poaching for its meat and for sport. Despite a six-year moratorium on hunting sambar deer that was put into place in 2009, scientists have found no evidence of population recovery to date.

The sambar deer has not been captured in camera trap studies in selected forests in Kelantan and Pahang, and are seen less frequently in areas studied in Johor by MYCAT partner organisations.

Rather than waiting until the moratorium runs out in 2014, MYCAT calls for an immediate change of the sambar deer’s legal status - from hunted species to totally protected species - under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

Total protection means absolutely no hunting or trade. Under the Act, penalties for hunting or keeping totally protected wildlife can reach RM300,000 (approx. USD91,075) and/or 10 years jail.

“The sambar needs both on-the-ground and legal protection now. The former has proved difficult given the meagre resources at hand, but the latter can be done today by the Minister for Natural Resources and Environment. It a serious situation and we hope he will give the sambar full legal protection,” says MYCAT General Manager, Dr. Kae Kawanishi.  

This call is prompted by research in northern Taman Negara National Park, Pahang where MYCAT found that beyond the western border of the Park, the sambar deer is nearly extinct due to poaching. Even inside the Park, it has remained a rarity since the 1990s. Meanwhile, tiger population in the same area has plummeted over the past decade. In southern Pahang, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-Malaysia Programme has also not recorded any sambar deer on camera traps.

In Kelantan, WWF-Malaysia did not record any evidence of the sambar deer in scientific studies conducted in 2004, 2005 and 2012. PERHILITAN’s records show that the sambar deer was legally hunted in the same area in the early 80s, but it is now likely locally extinct in the Gunung Basor and Gunung Stong Utara Forest Reserves in Kelantan.

However, in Johor, where there has been a strictly-enforced hunting ban since 2008, the sambar deer have often been camera-trapped but less frequently than wild boar and bearded pigs.

“The data is clear. Strict field enforcement linked with a sympathetic policy of protection is crucial if the sambar deer is to survive,” says WCS-Malaysia Programme’s feline biologist, Liang Song Horng.

The survival of the sambar deer is also pivotal to realising the country’s goal of saving the Malayan tiger, our experts warn. A recent WWF-Malaysia study in Belum-Temengor found that where there are more sambar deer, there are more tigers.

“The sambar deer is the largest preferred tiger prey species. It provides the tiger with the greatest energy for the effort spent hunting it,” says WWF-Malaysia’s tiger biologist Dr. Mark Rayan.

“So, the two species are inextricably linked. If sambar deer numbers go down, tiger numbers will too and the evidence is already pointing in that direction,” he adds.

MYCAT urges this action in the hopes of making enforcement simpler for authorities and ensuring continued protection for the sambar deer, which has seen its wild population decimated by persistent illegal hunting for the wild meat market.

“Poaching has already driven the wild banteng and Javan rhino to extinction in Peninsular Malaysia, with the Malayan tiger and many other species not far behind. The time to avert this crisis is now,” says TRAFFIC Southeast Asia’s Acting Regional Director, Dr. Chris Shepherd.

- END -

Notes to Editor:
A study published last month in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation highlighted the plight of the sambar deer in Peninsular Malaysia. Researchers from WWF-Malaysia and Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia Programme, together with PERHILITAN, reviewed data from 23 wildlife studies conducted between 1997 and 2008 throughout the Peninsula. The data consisted of 10,145 photographs from 40,303 nights of camera trapping.

They concluded that the conservation status of the sambar deer, along with the bearded pig, was the bleakest among the six large ungulates (hoofed animals) assessed. A temporary hunting ban was instituted for the sambar deer in 2009, while the highest legal protection status was accorded to the bearded pig in 2010.

A similar moratorium on sambar deer hunting was imposed between 1977 and 1982. In fact PERHILITAN recognised the need for sambar deer conservation back in 1968, but the population as a whole has continued to decline until today. 

For further information, please contact:
Wong Pui May, Coordinator, MYCAT Secretariat’s Office
Tel: 03.7880.3940 (O), 017.682.1006 (M); Email: mycat.so@malayantiger.net
 

 


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