Kuala Lumpur, 20 February – Malaysia set a significant example for tiger-range countries worldwide today, by announcing the construction of wildlife-friendly viaducts along the East-West Highway to the tune of RM 60 million (USD 20 million). This is in addition to the earlier approved projects worth RM 110 million (USD 27million) for creating six wildlife-friendly viaducts.
The viaducts will promote safe passage across the highway for tigers, elephants and various other wildlife to enhance connectivity in wildlife corridors, including the Greater Taman Negara and Belum-Temengor Priority Tiger Landscape. Such intervention to integrate conservation of tiger habitat into land-use planning and infrastructure development is vital.
To formalise these cross-sectoral efforts, Malaysia has innovated a strategy whereby the long-term security of tiger habitats are mainstreamed into the Central Forest Spine (CFS) Master Plan.
The CFS Master Plan, which is part of the national spatial plan, aims to create a contiguous network of forest in the backbone of Peninsular Malaysia. It recommends the creation a series of linkages in the form of ecological corridors, where the physical component of these ecological corridors are developed through the use of Smart Green Infrastructure features such as viaducts.
“Although the cost is high, implementation of these ecological corridors is possible through mainstreaming whereby interventions to create these corridors are made at the conceptual stage,” said the Honourable Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Malaysia, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Kurup, officiating the Cross-Sectoral Executive Leadership Forum on Mainstreaming Tiger Habitats in Kuala Lumpur.
The Executive Leadership Forum brings high-level government and industry executives together to focus on cross-sectoral challenges. Among the main objectives of the forum are to highlight the importance of integrating the conservation of tiger habitats into national spatial plans, explore means for incorporating Smart Green Infrastructure to link fragmented tiger habitats and deliberate further sustainable financial mechanisms in conserving tiger and its habitats.
The implementation of Malaysia’s National Tiger Conservation Action Plan and the CFS Master Plan will ensure that tiger conservation efforts are further mainstreamed into state and district level programmes and plans.
Dato' Abd Rasid Samsudin, the Director General of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) further added, “Mainstreaming of the tiger habitat into national plans has shown promising results. This is evident from the fact that the CFS’ recommendation to create ecological corridors is materialising, with the DWNP now managing a 15,000 ha wildlife corridor around the wildlife viaducts in Terengganu.”
According to Keshav Varma, the World Bank’s Programme Director for the Global Tiger Initiative, the pace and scale of land-use change is so great, particularly in Asia, that all government agencies and the private sector too must consider how their policies and programmes affect the environment and wildlife and wilderness.
“It is fitting that we are gathered in Malaysia, for its government has been extremely forward-looking in finding an equilibrium between the use of natural resources with their protection, and particularly for accommodating the needs of tigers and other species amid infrastructure development. If the Malaysia model is adopted, the future prospects for tigers and other species could improve markedly,” said Varma.
Along with the scourge of poaching and illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation are the most serious long-term threats to tiger survival in the wild. This is only accelerating with the explosion of economic growth in Asia and expansion of infrastructure built without necessary safeguards that protect wildlife and the environment.
“Tiger conservation cannot be achieved if wildlife and park authorities act alone,” said Steven Monfort, Director of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI).
“SCBI is pleased to be working with our longtime partners at PERHILITAN and the World Bank to foster this meeting of a cross-section of Malaysian government authorities and private conservation organisations, such as WWF-Malaysia. Working together, they can forge a comprehensive approach to protect tiger habitats, halt poaching, and involve local communities in tiger recovery,” he added.
Hosted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in collaboration with the Global Tiger Initiative, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the World Bank, the forum draws participants from a wide variety of sectors from six tiger-range countries; India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam.