Malaysia battles to save its national animal from extinction

“If drastic action is not taken, the Malayan tiger will be extinct within the next five to 10 years”

Malaysian government minister, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar,
statement to Malaysian parliament, November, 2021

This article is about the plight of the Malayan tiger, the national animal of Malaysia. We have shared it here, in part, as Malaysia is the largest single country of origin for our CEN membership, and in honour of the Year of the Tiger.

The Malayan tiger has been declared critically endangered (IUCN Red List) as its numbers have plunged from 3,000 in the 1950s to just 500 in the early 2000s. The numbers have plummeted to fewer than 150 as of today. The situation is critical, and there is only a very small window left to save them.

Tigers are prolific breeders, offering some hope for revival of their population.
(Photo shot by CGTN’s Rian Maelzer at Zoo Negara Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, January 2022

Malaysia recently created a Wildlife Crime Bureau and a National Tiger Taskforce, headed by the prime minister, and the country now have a thousand more wild-life patrol officers in the jungle than previously. Environmental NGOs say Mayalsia’s strengthen laws are vital to saving the tigers.

Poaching has been blamed for the plummeting numbers of tigers in the wild. “It’s definitely poaching,” says Christopher Wong, head of the Tiger Conservation Programme for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Malaysia. “Tigers are extracted from the wild to fuel the international illegal wildlife trade.”

Illegal wildlife trade to China and several South East Asia countries (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam) has long been seen as a problem in tiger poaching.

Since 2010, China’s wildlife enforcement units, including the CITES Management Authority, forest police and customs, have actively participated in a series of regional and international law enforcement operations with the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network and individual South East Asian countries. These joint operations have yielded significant seizures of illegal wildlife products and led to the detainment of hundreds of wildlife criminals.

From 2016 China and ASEAN began an even more coordinated regional cooperation to combat illegal wildlife trade.

Considering the large number of seizures and arrests made by Chinese law enforcement each year, China’s track record in cracking down on wildlife offenses domestically and intercepting illegal shipments at national borders appears consistent and promising. For example, official data reveals how between 2007 and 2016, Chinese forest police had handled a national total of 246,000 forest and wildlife-related criminal cases and two million administrative cases, leading to the apprehension of 3.9 million offenders and confiscation of 57.6 million animal individuals (NFGA, 2008–2017).


CGTN, 31-Jan-2022.

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 02 March 2021.