Year of the Disappearing Tiger

The 2022 Lunar New Year, which began on Tuesday (Feb 1), marked new beginnings for many citizens throughout the ASEAN region, celebrating this holiday as we welcome the Year of the Tiger.

Lunar traditions and celebrations welcoming the Year of the Tiger bear more significance for the ASEAN region, being home to three out of the six existing subspecies of Tigers: the Indochinese Tiger, which has been recorded in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailandand Vietnam; the Sumatran Tiger in Indonesia; and the Malayan Tiger in Peninsular Malaysia and Southern Thailand.

Tigers (Panthera tigris), the largest member of the cat family (Felidae), are mostly solitary and highly adaptable. They prey on large animals like deer, wild boar and even elephant calves, and require large contiguous areas approximately between 70 and 600 square kilometres to thrive.

These powerful apex predators continue to be pivotal players in ensuring the health of our ecosystems, and consequently the wellbeing of humanity. Yet, throughout their range, wild tiger populations are declining due to various threats resulting from human activities.

In Malaysia, the dwindling population of the Malayan Tigers, considered as one of the country’s iconic species, is a major concern. Based on the latest figures from the survey that the Malaysian government is conducting, fewer than 150 tigers remain in the wild. 

In Thailand, a group of 18 tigers has been recorded from June 2016 to February 2017 in the Dong Phyayen and Khao Yai forest complex, based on a survey conducted by the country’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Freeland Foundation and Panthera Foundation.

In Myanmar, tigers have been rarely spotted in the region and have been considered “extirpated” (“root outed and destroyed completely”), according to the country’s 6th National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity. 

We laud the efforts of the ASEAN Member States in addressing the decline of wild tigers and their prey. The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity is currently supporting transboundary efforts between Malaysia and Thailand in protecting the important tiger and elephant landscape at the border of these countries.

In Malaysia, routine patrolling is supplemented by the all-year-round anti-snare programmes and the recently established National Tiger Conservation Task Force chaired by the Prime Minister. In Indonesia, ex-situ wildlife conservation (“off-site conservation”) efforts have succeeded in breeding several endangered animals, including the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae).

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity congratulates the government of Malaysia and the Global Tiger Forum for successfully hosting the 4th Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation from January 19-21, 2022 and adopting the Kuala Lumpur Joint Statement on Tiger Conservation.

These developments reflect the strong commitment of the tiger range states to protecting the region’s majestic felines. The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity is ready to support further collaborations and dialogues to address the main threats to the tiger populations, including contributing to actions outlined in the Joint Statement.

Amid the challenges of biodiversity loss, the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity urges everyone to take part in the shared responsibility of protecting tigers, their prey and their habitats. This endeavour can only be possible through stronger partnerships and effective strategies on the ground to address threats, such as wildlife trafficking and habitat loss.

May the citizens of ASEAN draw inspiration from the magnificent wild tigers of our region in wielding the opportunities that the Lunar New Year has to offer. Just like how tigers are, may we be key figures in maintaining the harmony and balance in ecosystems, because #WeAreASEANBiodiversity.

Year of the Disappearing Tiger
Viet Nam