Habitat and Ecology
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
The Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) is a tiger subspecies that inhabits the southern and central parts of the Malay Peninsula and has been classified as endangered by IUCN in 2008 as the population was estimated at 493 to 1,480 adult individuals in 2003; none of the three subpopulations likely harbors more than 250 mature breeding individuals, with a declining trend.
When in 1968 Panthera tigris corbetti was newly designated, the tigers inhabiting the Malayan Peninsula were included into this subspecies. In 2004, Panthera tigris jacksoni was recognized as a new subspecies when a genetic analysis found that they are distinct in mtDNA and micro-satellite sequences from Panthera tigris corbetti.
Body length taken from 16 female tigers in the State of Trengganu ranged from 70 to 103 in (180 to 260 cm) and averaged 80.1 in (203 cm). Their height ranged from 23 to 41 in (58 to 104 cm), and their body weight from 52 to 195 lb (24 to 88 kg). Data from 21 males in the State of Trengganu showed that total length ranged from 75 to 112 in (190 to 280 cm), with an average of 94.2 in (239 cm). Their height ranged from 24 to 45 in (61 to 114 cm), and their body weight from 104 to 284.7 lb (47.2 to 129.1 kg).
Distribution and habitat
The geographic division between Malayan and Indochinese tigers is unclear as tiger populations in northern Malaysia are contiguous with those in southern Thailand. In Singapore tigers were extirpated in the 1950s, and the last one shot in1932.
Between 1991 and 2003, tiger signs were reported from early-succession vegetation fields, agricultural areas outside forests in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, and Johor, and many riparian habitats outside forests in Pahang, Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu, and Johor. Most of the major rivers that drain into the South China Sea had some evidence of tigers, whereas those draining into the Straits of Melaka in the west did not. Tiger sign was not reported from Perlis, Pulau Pinang, and Malacca, and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya in the west coast. The total potential tiger habitat was 66,211 km2 (25,564 sq mi), which comprised 37,674 km2 (14,546 sq mi) of confirmed tiger habitat, 11,655 km2 (4,500 sq mi) of expected tiger habitat and 16,882 km2 (6,518 sq mi) of possible tiger habitat. All the protected areas greater than 402 km2 (155 sq mi) in size had tigers.
Ecology and behavior
Malayan tigers prey on sambar deer, barking deer, wild boar, Bornean bearded pigs and serow. Tigers also prey on sun bear, young elephants and rhino calves. Whether their principal prey includes adult gaur and tapir is unknown. Occasionally, livestock is also taken; however, tiger predation reduces the numbers of wild boar which can become a serious pest in plantations and other croplands. Studies indicate that in areas where large predators (tigers and leopards) are extinct, wild pigs are over 10 times more numerous than in areas where tigers and leopards are still present.
Tigers occur at very low densities 1.1–1.98 tigers per 100 km² in the rainforest as a result of low prey densities, thus in order to maintain viable tiger populations of minimum of 6 breeding females, reserves need to be larger than 1000 km². Information on dietary preference, morphological measurements, demographic parameters, social structure, communication, home range sizes, dispersal capabilities are all lacking.
Habitat fragmentation due to development projects and agriculture are serious threats. Commercial poaching occurs at varying levels in all tiger range states. In Malaysia there is a substantial domestic market in recent years for tiger meat and manufactured tiger bone medicines.
The captive population of the Malayan tiger should be managed in a similar way to the other recognized subspecies but it is unclear how this information will be used by the zoo community. The Cincinnati Zoo was the first zoo in North America to begin a captive breeding program for Malayan tigers with the importation of a male and three females from Asia between 1990 and 1992. However the breeding program was not designated as a Tiger SSP until 1998. As of 2011 there were 54 of this subspecies in North American zoos. The 54 individuals are located in 25 institutions and are descended from only 11 founders. Therefore the plan of retaining a target of 90% genetic diversity over the next century is not possible unless other founders are added.
When the tiger population of the Malay Peninsular was accepted as a distinct subspecies in 2004, the chairman of the Malaysian Association of Zoos, Parks and Aquaria argued that the new subspecies should be named Panthera tigris malayensis to reflect the geographical region of its range. As a compromise, it received the vernacular name "Malayan tiger" and the scientific name Panthera tigris jacksoni, which honours the tiger conservationist Peter Jackson.
The Malayan tiger is the national animal of Malaysia.
Two tigers are depicted as supporters in the coat of arms of Malaysia, and the tiger appears in various heraldry of Malaysian institutions such as Royal Malaysian Police, Maybank, Proton and Football Association of Malaysia. It symbolizes bravery and strength to Malaysians. It is also the nickname for the Malaysian national football team. The tiger has been given various nicknames by Malaysians, notably "Pak Belang," which literally means "Uncle Stripes." Pak Belang features prominently in folklore as one of the adversaries of Sang Kancil (the mouse deer).
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