Malayan tiger

This article is about a tiger subspecies. For Japanese Imperial Army general who has the nickname "Malayan Tiger" or "Tiger of Malaya", see Tomoyuki Yamashita.
Malayan tiger
A Malayan tiger at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: P. tigris
Subspecies: P. t. jacksoni
Trinomial name
Panthera tigris jacksoni
Luo et al., 2004
Range map

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 Critically Endangered by IUCN in 2015 as the population was roughly estimated at 250 to 340 adult individuals in 2013; this population likely comprises less than 250 mature breeding individuals, with a declining trend.[1]

When in 1968 Panthera tigris corbetti was newly designated, the tigers inhabiting the Malayan Peninsula were included into this subspecies.[2] In 2004, Panthera tigris jacksoni was recognised as a new subspecies when a genetic analysis found that they are distinct in mtDNA and micro-satellite sequences from Panthera tigris corbetti.[3]

In Malay language the tiger is called harimau, also abbreviated to rimau.[4]


Close up of a Malayan tiger's head.

There is no clear difference between the Malayan and the Indochinese tiger when specimens from the two regions are compared cranially or in pelage. No type specimen was designated.[5]

Malayan tigers appear to be smaller than Indian ones. From measurements of 11 males and 8 females, the average length of a male is 8 ft 6 in (259 cm), and of a female 7 ft 10 in (239 cm).[6]

Body length taken from 16 female tigers in the State of Terengganu 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 Terengganu 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).[2]

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.[1] In Singapore tigers were extirpated in the 1950s, and the last one shot in 1932.[2]

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 Malacca in the west did not.[7]

Tiger signs were not reported from Perlis, Penang, 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.[7]

In September 2014 two conservation organisations announced that a camera trap survey of seven sites in the three separate habitats from 2010 to 2013 had produced an estimate of the surviving population from 250 to 340 healthy individuals, with a few additional isolated small pockets probable. According to the report, the decline meant that the species might have to be moved to the "Critically Endangered" category in the IUCN list.[8]

Ecology and behaviour

Malayan tigers prey on sambar deer, barking deer, wild boar, Bornean bearded pigs and serow. Malayan 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.[9][10][11]

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 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.[7] 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.[12]


A Malayan Tiger at the National Zoo of Malaysia.

Tigers are included on CITES Appendix I, banning international trade. All tiger range states and countries with consumer markets have banned domestic trade as well.[12]

The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) is "an alliance of non-governmental organisations comprising the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Traffic Southeast Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia Programme and WWF-Malaysia."[13] It also includes the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.[14]

In 2007, they implemented a hotline to report tiger-related crimes, such as poaching.[15] In order to deter poaching, they organize "Cat Walks", a citizen patrol in danger zones.[16] MYCAT has a goal of increasing the tiger population.[17]

In captivity

The captive population of the Malayan tiger should be managed in a similar way to the other recognised subspecies but it is unclear how this information will be used by the international 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. The breeding program was as a Tiger SSP in 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.

Naming controversy

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.[18] As a compromise, it received the vernacular name "Malayan tiger" and the scientific name Panthera tigris jacksoni, which honours the tiger conservationist Peter Jackson.[19][20]

Cultural references

The Malayan tiger is the national animal of Malaysia.[21]

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 symbolises 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).

The Malayan tiger was featured on Special Service Group insignia and Royal Malay Regiment insignia.


  1. 1 2 3 Kawanishi, K. (2015). "Panthera tigris subsp. jacksoni". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  2. 1 2 3 Khan, M.K.M. (1986). Tigers in Malaysia. The Journal of Wildlife and Parks V: 1–23.
  3. Luo, S.-J.; Kim,J.-H.; Johnson, W. E.; van der Walt, J.; Martenson, J.; Yuhki, N.; Miquelle, D. G.; Uphyrkina, O.; Goodrich, J. M.; Quigley, H. B.; Tilson, R.; Brady, G.; Martelli, P.; Subramaniam, V.; McDougal, C.; Hean, S.; Huang, S.-Q.; Pan, W.; Karanth, U. K.; Sunquist, M.; Smith, J. L. D., O'Brien, S. J. (2004). "Phylogeography and genetic ancestry of tigers (Panthera tigris)". PLoS Biology. 2 (12): e442. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020442. PMC 534810Freely accessible. PMID 15583716.
  4. Wilkinson, R. J. (1901). A Malay-English dictionary Kelly & Walsh Limited, Hongkong, Shanghai and Yokohama.
  5. Mazák, J. H.; Groves, C. P. (2006). "A taxonomic revision of the tigers (Panthera tigris)" (PDF). Mammalian Biology. 71 (5): 268–287. doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2006.02.007.
  6. Locke, A. (1956) The tigers of Terengganu. Museum Press Ltd., London
  7. 1 2 3 Kawanishi, K., Yatim, S. H., Abu Hashim, A. K., Topani, R. (2003). Distribution and potential population size of the tiger in Peninsular Malaysia. Journal of Wildlife Parks (Malaysia) 21: 29–50.
  8. Hance, J. (2014). Malayan tiger population plunges to just 250-340 individuals., September 2014
  9. Yong, D. L.; Lee, P. Y.-H.; Ang, A.; Tan, K. H. (2010). "The status on Singapore island of the Eurasian wild pig Sus scrofa (Mammalia: Suidae)" (PDF). Nature in Singapore. 3: 227–237.
  10. Ickes, K.; Paciorek, C. J.; Thomas. S. C. (2005). "Impacts of nest construction by native pigs (Sus scrofa) on lowland Malaysian rain forest saplings" (PDF). Ecology. 86 (6): 1540–1547. doi:10.1890/04-0867. JSTOR 3450779.
  11. Ickes, K. (2001). "Hyper-abundance of native wild pigs (Sus scrofa) in a lowland dipterocarp rain forest of Peninsular Malaysia". Biotropica. 33 (4): 682–690. doi:10.1646/0006-3606(2001)033[0682:haonwp];2. JSTOR 3593170.
  12. 1 2 Nowell, K. (2007) Asian big cat conservation and trade control in selected range States: evaluating implementation and effectiveness of CITES Recommendations. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.
  13. Shahar, Fairuz Mohd (2013-09-21). "Take action with Maybank Wild Tiger Run". New Straits Times. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
  14. Sundararaj, Aneeta (2013-10-26). "Tigers, our heritage". New Straits Times. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
  15. "Tiger hotline gets good response from public". The Star. 2007-12-22. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
  16. Heing, Natalie (2013-01-22). "Nature lovers trail after poachers in bid to deter illegal hunting". The Star. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
  17. Lee, Patrick (2014-09-15). "Malayan tiger now critically endangered, numbering as few as 250". The Star. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
  18. New Straits Times (2004). "Malayan tiger may get new name". Asia Africa Intelligence Wire.
  19. O’Brien, S. J., Luo, S.-J., Kim, J.-H., Johnson, W. E. (2005). Molecular Genetic Analysis Reveals Six Living Subspecies of Tiger, Panthera tigris. Cat News 42: 6−8.
  20. IUCN (2005). "IUCN tiger specialist Peter Jackson earns his stripes". International Union for Conservation of Nature, Gland.
  21. DiPiazza, F. (2006). Malaysia in Pictures. Twenty-First Century Books. ISBN 978-0-8225-2674-2.

External links

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