A sign of hope

Critically endangered Malayan tiger cubs spotted in the wild

Four critically endangered tigers were captured on camera trap footage in Malaysia earlier this year. With the ongoing poaching crisis still plaguing many of the world’s wild tigers, this discovery offers a huge message of hope for Malayan tigers, which number less than 200 in the wild.

In the new series of images, a female tiger is seen crossing from right to left, followed closely by three cubs, estimated to be between one and a half to two years old. A second set of images, captured a month later, revealed the same family of four. These rare images came from camera traps set up by WWF-Malaysia in the Belum Temengor Forest Complex.

Why are these images so important? Footage of the cubs show us what's possible if the right conditions are in place for tigers to thrive. This includes the presence of suitable habitat and prey that help the tigers survive. It also highlights the risks these cubs continue to face as they grow up.

WWF’s report, Silence of the Snares, illustrated how snares—traps set up to capture tigers and other animals—are a major threat to wildlife in Southeast Asia. Belum-Temengor in Malaysia is one of Southeast Asia’s most important tiger landscapes, yet it experienced a 50% decline in tiger numbers from 2009-2018 largely due to widespread snaring. In 2017 and 2018, the anti-poaching team in Malaysia had deactivated snares around the same area, which is a hotspot for foreign poachers. Since then, there has been a drastic increase in the number of patrol teams and a sharper decline in the instances of snares.

A snare-free forest means a safer forest for tigers to breed. But we need to do more than just remove snares. Sustained, stronger anti-poaching efforts are needed if we are to ensure that these cubs are safe from poachers and can survive into adulthood. National law enforcement and legislation must be strengthened to act as an effective deterrent against snaring. And for measures to be successful, regional governments will need to invest more in the management of its protected areas.

We have seen a remarkable comeback of tigers in Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Russia, since the launch of Tx2, an ambitious goal to double the population of wild tigers. The global wild tiger population has now increased to an estimated 3,900.

“This footage and news is a hopeful and timely message for boosting the number of tigers in the wild in Malaysia and our continued tiger conservation efforts,” says Dechen Dorji, WWF-US’s Senior Director for Wildlife Conservation in Asia.

Stories like this are proof that if we can restore these animals to their rightful homes in the wild, this number will continue to rise.