Critically Endangered Tiger and Cubs Caught on Camera

There are fewer than 150 tigers in all of Malaysia.

tiger and four cubs in Malaysia


A Malayan tiger looks off into the forest while her four cubs mill around her.

Just another ordinary moment in the animals’ lives, but it was captured by a camera trap to the delight of researchers and conservationists.

“In Malaysia to see a mother with cubs is rare,” Jennifer Roberts, director of development and communications, Tigers Alive Initiative, World Wildlife Fund, tells Treehugger. “There are less than 150 tigers in the whole country, so to see a mother with four is super special.”

According to WWF, in the 1950s, there were as many as 3,000 Malayan tigers in the country.

Now they are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List with their population numbers decreasing. One of the smallest tiger species, the Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. jacksoni) was recognized as a subspecies in 2004. Previously, it was believed to be the same as the Indochinese tiger.

The largest threats to the species include habitat loss and fragmentation due to development, mining, and human activity. Tigers are also hunted for their skin and meat and they are often killed for preying on livestock.

So far, three subspecies of tigers have gone extinct. The Bali tiger (P. t. balica) went extinct in the 1940s, the Caspian (P. t. virgata) in the 1970s, and Javan (P. t. sondaica) in the 1980s.

“With the tiger population currently numbering fewer than 150 in Peninsular Malaysia, this latest development renews hope that this critically endangered species can be saved from the brink of extinction,” said Sophia Lim, CEO WWF-Malaysia.

“It is all the more crucial that we continue our patrols, to protect these cubs and their mother from the existing threats of poaching and loss of habitat.”

Enough Habitat and Prey

Tigers typically give birth to two to four cubs every two years. They stay with their mothers until they become independent when they are about 2 years old.

They reach sexual maturity around age 3-4 for females and about 4-5 years old for males. Only about half of all cubs survive more than two years. In the wild, tigers have been documented to live as long as 20 years.

The presence of this mother and cubs demonstrates that with enough habitat and prey, tigers can breed and survive in the wild, says Shah Redza Hussein, director of Perak State Parks Corporation (PSPC), which manages the area’s three state parks.

“We need sustained and stronger anti-poaching efforts to ensure that these cubs are safe from poachers and can survive into adulthood,” he said. 

Anti-poaching teams from WWF-Malaysia and PSPC patrol Royal Belum State Park, in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia. They patrol the massive park with support from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan).

Patrolling on a regular basis has reduced the number of incidents of poaching by nearly 98%, according to the WWF.

“It's a collaborative effort. This sighting is proof that with a viable population—though small—tigers can still repopulate if their habitat, food, and safety are ensured,” said Hussein.  

This month, stricter laws on wildlife crime are set to take effect. With the Wildlife Conservation Act, the maximum fine for offenders will jump from 500,000 ringgits ($112,000) to 1 million ringgits ($225,000).

WWF expects law enforcement members will also have more in their arsenal after the creation of a National Tiger Task Force and a Wildlife Crime Bureau.

View Article Sources
  1. WWF media release

  2. "Malayan Tiger." IUCN Red List.

  3. "Malayan Tiger." Malaysian Wildlife.

  4. Luo, Shu-Jin, et al. "Phylogeography and Genetic Ancestry of Tigers (Panthera Tigris)." Plos Biology, vol. 2, no. 12, 2004, p. e442., doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020442

  5. "Tiger." World Wildlife Fund.