WE refer to the killing of a three-year old male tiger by a People’s Volunteer Corp (Rela) member because the tiger was spotted in a village and suspected of attacking poultry in Sungai Bayor, Perak.
We understand the villagers’ fear, but the matter should not have been handled in this manner. There is a clear and simple procedure for dealing with these human-tiger conflict situations that should be well known to agencies like Rela and its members. That procedure is to alert the Wildlife and National Parks Department first.
This incident is just one of many that raise our concern about Rela members abusing their firearms:
- In 2004, a Rela member was charged for killing a tiger in Gemas, Negeri Sembilan. The tiger was discovered with its internal organs missing and was believed to have been shot by the man after villagers sighted it in the forest.
- Last October, two Rela members were arrested by the Pahang Wildlife Department for using their shotguns to kill two mousedeer in Rompin, Pahang.
- Earlier this year nine Orang Asli, two of whom were Rela members, were detained for snaring and torturing a tiger in Sungkai, Perak.
Such incidents illustrate the reality of how Rela members are not always in tune with the national laws and policies relating to wildlife and the proper use of the firearms awarded to them.
In view of this, the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) calls for a review of Rela members’ firearm possession policy, standard operating procedures involving firearm use, as well as policies with regards to dealing with wildlife. Adding to this concern is the recent news of the government issuance of 48,823 shotgun licences.
There must also be closer and more effective communication among government agencies, especially in circumstances where the job of protecting wildlife and people overlap.
We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that human-tiger conflict arises as a result of loss of prey, loss of habitats through land clearance for industrial plantations such as oil palm and rubber, and poaching. So it is imperative to ensure these problems are tackled to keep both animals and people safe.
The government has been clear at policy level about its commitment to doubling the number of wild tigers by 2020 – stated unequivocally both in the National Tiger Action Plan and the 10th Malaysia Plan. Making these a reality is not solely the responsibility of the Wildlife Department and conservation organisations – the tiger graces our Coat of Arms, it is a national symbol and belongs to all of us, Rela members included.
24 June 2010
Mycat comprises the Malaysian Nature Society, Traffic Southeast Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society–Malaysia Programme and WWF-Malaysia.
Why on earth are we even arming the Rela members??
Kong Kek Kuat says
Coz’ we have many egos to boost.
This is the thinking of the sick mind. Sick people don’t love animals. That is why they strangle, shoot and beat up dogs. They detest animals.
The hundreds of beautiful tress and greenery around my housing estate has been flattened to make way for houses. Everyday I see tens of monitor lizards, (displaced by the ‘ravishing’) around my house looking for food. I also see snakes, monkeys and even wild boars. I don’t hear the musical symphony of the hundreds of birds every morning anymore.
Don’t animals have the right to live in this God given earth? Why can’t we have a law to preserve some land for them – yes right near where we live.
But in this case the tiger was spotted in the village right? While agreed they should have gone first to the Wildlife Department, how many of us would actually know this? The Wildlife department should be more visible particularly in places identified as high risk to such contact.
As for this Rela man, was there any evidence of poaching? Now if he was simply acting in the best interests of the villagers, I would think we should not act so fast to judge.
As for what you say about clearing land, things are more complicated. You are right, things should be done right, but that is more the responsibility of the state to ensure this. If sizable jungle land is cleared, the state working with interests groups such as yours should find a responsible way to manage the impact on the local wildlife and perhaps if need be to relocate them (as with what they do with elephants). We can’t just leave it to local people to ‘do the right thing’. Lets stop making judgments of people until we have understood the full story.
the reader says
“Lets stop making judgments of people until we have understood the full story”.
Well, if you read the papers, the guy firstly said that he has been attacked by a tiger. And then when the Wildlife Department went there to check, they found out that the tiger is dead and his paw is trapped and nearly cut off. He apparently went to check his trap and got attacked. And further investigation shows that those peoples already killed a few tigers for their organs…so there’s that…
To the reader,
I was actually referring to the most recent case where a tiger was shot because villagers suspected it had eaten some chickens. The tiger in this case was not snared or poached. The correct thing as others have suggested was to call up Perhilitan. My point was to say that not many people may know this. I feel that the onus is also on Perhilitan to inform people on what to do and who to go to if they see a tiger.
In the past I remember that people would call the fire station if there was a snake in the house/garden. Why were people not informed to call Perhilitan? I think the department as well as concerned NGOs like WWF, MNS, etc. should conduct road trips to educate people on the wealth of our wildlife and who the proper authorities are if we ever have such encounters with the wild. We should also know what to do and what our legal rights are. I feel in this case, the Rela man is somewhat a victim of a general ignorance. But this is just my opinion.
As for tigers, I wish there would be more of them in the wild, but wishful thinking alone is not enough. We need to have more comprehensive forest policies that take into account the wildlife and their natural habitats. It’s not enough that we only think of economic expansion, but I feel we are sufficiently developed to start thinking now about conserving large tracts of land and not to disturb it. And the relevant agencies need to be pro-active in identifying areas that are most likely to have human contact with wildlife – be it tigers, slow loris, etc. But most importantly, we need to be educated about wildlife and on who to call if the need arises.
the reader says
Ignorance alone won’t make you less guilty…and it’s Rela, you know what the general opinion about them is. Go figure.
Ordinary orang kampung may not be aware that they should call Perhilitan, but armed Rela officers should. And if they don’t, that’s where the problem is – and that is why the NGOs are calling for a review of the [Rela] policies and SOP, if these exist.