PETALING JAYA - Poachers and development have pushed Malaysia's tigers to the brink of extinction.
The country's national animal is now categorised as a critically endangered species on the IUCN Red List, with official estimates pegging the population of the big cats to as low as 250 to 340.
"Poaching for illegal commercial trade is the greatest and most urgent threat to tigers in Malaysia, followed by loss and fragmentation of forests," Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) said a joint statement.
Mycat general manager Dr Kae Kawanishi said data collected only by NGOs showed more than 2,241 poacher traps and 1,728 illegal camp sites were destroyed in local forest reserves and protected areas between 2010 and 2013.
"Intelligence has also indicated a sharp increase in the number of trespassers and poachers in forests across the region since 2012," she told The Star.
Dr Kae said tigers and other wildlife were being hunted by both local and foreign poachers "right under our noses".
Previously, the estimated number of Malayan tigers in the country was at 500.
In 2013, a man from Kedah was sentenced to five years jail for having eight tiger skins, 22 tiger skulls and nine elephant tusks. He was not fined.
TRAFFIC Southeast Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said nearly 100 live tigers and tiger parts were seized by authorities between 2000 and 2012.
"How long can any wild tiger population cope with that level of slaughter?" she asked.
WWF Malaysia chief executive Datuk Dr Dionysus Sharma said current efforts to save the Malayan tiger were not enough.
"If this trend continues, then tiger numbers can be expected to go down further," he said.
He said TX2, a WWF move to double numbers in 13 tiger range countries by 2022 may be possible if poaching was kept under control, and enough tiger prey around to support those numbers.