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Using BAD for good: how best available data facilitated a precautionary policy change to improve protection of the prey of the tiger Panthera tigris in Malaysia

  • Kae Kawanishi (a1), Gopalasamy Reuben Clements (a2), Melvin Gumal (a3), Gareth Goldthorpe (a4), Mohd Nawayai Yasak (a5) and Dionysius Shankar Kumar Sharma (a2)...
Abstract

Tiger Panthera tigris populations are under threat from poaching and depletion of their prey populations. The National Tiger Action Plan for Malaysia contains several actions addressing the threat of legal and illegal hunting of tiger prey species. One action in this plan required an investigation of whether urgent policy changes were needed to improve the protection of the prey of tigers, based on existing data. As the lack of reliable baseline data prevented us from determining population trends accurately, we compiled camera-trapping data from 23 studies conducted between 1997 and 2008 on four principal tiger prey species (sambar Rusa unicolor, barking deer Muntiacus muntjac, wild boar Sus scrofa and bearded pig S. barbatus) and two potential prey species (gaur Bos gaurus and Malayan tapir Tapirus indicus) and compared their distributions and relative abundances. From 10,145 wildlife photographs spanning 40,303 trap-nights, sambar, bearded pig and gaur appeared to be most threatened given their restricted distribution and low relative abundance. Among these, the gaur has full legal protection and has received more conservation attention than the other two species. Following our assessment and advocacy a 6-year moratorium on hunting both sambar and barking deer was imposed by the Malaysian government and the highest protection status possible was afforded the bearded pig. This case study illustrates how best available data (BAD), in this case from camera-trapping studies, can be harnessed to effect precautionary policy changes to curb the impacts of hunting on threatened predator and prey populations that could crash well before resources would otherwise be available for rigorous scientific assessments.

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(Corresponding author) E-mail kae@malayantiger.net
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Oryx
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