Thursday, 25 February 2010
Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!
Tiger numbers are dwindling worldwide, but the Malayan tiger has the best chance not just of survival, but also of doubling its current numbers to 1,000 by the year 2020. Let's try to make the Year of the Tiger the year of hope for tigers!
The National Tiger Action Plan (TAP) was formulated in 2008 using the collaborative platform of the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT). The target of the TAP is to have 1,000 tigers surviving in the Central Forest Spine; the 51,000 square km backbone of Peninsular Malaysia’s environmentally-sensitive area network.
Saving tigers from extinction isn't merely the job of conservationists and Forestry Departments. It needs the support of the general public. With this in mind, MYCAT launched a campaign to have 1,000 faces (of volunteers and members of the public) painted in the likeness of the tiger as part of its public education and outreach effort.
I opted to be an outreach volunteer due to my passable command of Mandarin, which would enable me to communicate with rural ethnic Chinese communities. My duty included asking them to stop the consumption of wild meat, and to ask them to inform us via our Tiger Crime Hotline number if they know of any restaurants selling wild meat, especially tiger meat.
So, on Saturday, 20 February 2010, I carpooled to the event grounds, Dong Zen Temple in Jenjarom, Selangor, together with my friends Kim, Vegan Eugene and Mary Therese.
The Dong Zen Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple Complex in Jenjarom was constructed in 1994 as a place of worship and religious instruction. This is only one of the buildings in the entire complex.
Approximately 50 volunteers, working in shifts, painted 1,000 faces free-of-charge as part of tiger conservation awareness efforts. They were trained by our dimunitive tiger artist, Pik Wun. Well done, volunteers!
Everyone wanted to be part of the action, regardless of age or gender. Thank you for being such good sports, Uncles!
Mary Therese, Kim, me and Eugene posing in front of the wall of snapshots.
Outreach volunteers, ready to roar!
The Happy Tiger! I am always in my element when hamming it up for the camera.
The temple grounds were converted into an amusement park for the Lunar New Year celebrations. Although I don't see how a Ferris Wheel could encourage mindfulness and prayer, Kim and I decided to go on it anyway, knowing we could carry out outreach work with the folks in the next gondolas.
...And we did, and we were successful. Families are the best targets because the children will want to have their faces painted, and we could talk to the parents about our roles in wildlife conservation as they wait.
Me: "Hey Kim, can you take a photo for me please?"
Kim: "No no no! I'm very scared! I want to get down! Stop stop stop! I am not going to let go of the bars!"
... And so I had to take a self-portrait because Kim wasn't going to quit hanging on to the steel bars anytime soon.
The temple grounds looked more like a theme park than a place of worship.
Prayer flags were available for a small fee and I didn't want to miss out on the fun. I hung two prayer flags for my conservation and animal protection goals. It's going to take more than just prayer to save Malaysian wildlife.
Night has fallen, and the temple grounds are transformed into an energy-guzzling fairyland.
The majestic tiger will be but a creature of myth if more isn't done to conserve its habitat, protect its food sources and stop wildlife poaching.
The temple food court, which serves only vegetarian food (yippee!), was transformed into a springtime wonderland.
Each volunteer was given coupons for RM10.00 worth of food, and my friends and I delighted in noodles, soups, burgers, fries, ice cream and cold drinks after a long day of being on our feet. We were to remain on duty until after 2200 hrs.
The MYCAT officers and volunteers were in good spirits upon surpassing our target of 1,000 painted faces!
The representatives of the individual conservation groups (MYCAT, TRAFFIC and WWF) were interviewed by the Malaysian Book of Records in relation to the seemingly impossible feat, but unfortunately, the interviewers did not seem interested in the meaning and objective of the event and behaved as though the volunteers had been painting faces for the sake of, well, painting faces.
A tired tiger tried to sleep off a tummy ache at 2245 hrs. I had helped to pack and tidy up before retiring under the merchandise table.
Served me right for eating like a bottomless pit all day.
What can you do to help tiger populations?
1. Obviously, by not buying tiger products such as fur, teeth, bones, claws and meat.
2. Live simply that wildlife may simply live. Reduce, reuse and recylce more and use less energy, water and fossil fuels. Conduct your due diligence before visiting places of interest or booking holidays that may feature wildlife 'attractions' such as tiger parks, tiger farms and photo opportunities with captive big cats.
3. Abstain from eating wild meat. Every kilogramme of wild boar and wild deer meat you consume means one kilogramme less for tigers. Driven to search for prey in livestock farms and near human habitations, tigers end up regarded as pests and this makes them vulnerable to being hunted and killed.
4. Did you spot a snare or wild animal trap on your recent camping/trekking trip? Please report it to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) or MYCAT. Contact info given below.
5. Do you know of any restaurants selling tiger meat? Then please make a phone call to the Tiger Crime Hotline and give them all the details you can. Don't forget to include the name and address of the restaurant. All calls are confidential.
Important numbers to remember:
MYCAT's 24-Hour Tiger Crime Hotline: 019 356 4194
Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan): +603-90866800
Find out more by visiting www.tx2.my!