Dr. Tara Harris, Vice President for Conservation at the Minnesota Zoo, and Coordinator of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Tiger Species Survival Plan and Tiger Conservation Campaign, is visiting tiger conservation projects in Malaysia and Indonesia.  Conducted by WCS-Malaysia and WCS-Indonesia, these projects are supported by numerous zoos, individuals, and others through the Tiger Conservation Campaign.  Special thanks to the Wildlife Conservation Society for hosting Dr. Harris, and to Delta Air Lines and the Minnesota Zoo Foundation for supporting this trip.

Peninsular Malaysia tiger map with arrow_credit WCSLocation: Southern Peninsular Malaysia (states of Johor and Pahang)

Size of park: 870 km2

Size of larger ecosystem: ~3,600 km2

Examples of endangered species: Malayan tiger, Malayan tapir, Asian elephant, Asian golden cat, white-handed gibbon

Main threats to tigers and other wildlife: poaching; legal land conversion, especially in wildlife corridor areas

“We will see tapir along the road to Endau-Rompin this evening”, said Francis Cheong, Assistant Director for the WCS-Malaysia Program.  He seemed so certain of it.  And I would be SO excited to see one of these bizarre creatures in the wild.

“Really?  That would be amazing!” I replied, naively.  Giggles came from the back of the truck.  We certainly did see a tapir along the side of the road, but it was in the form of a street sign that warned drivers of a wildlife crossing area.

I may not have seen a live tapir or elusive wild tigers on my visit to tiger conservation projects in Malaysia, but I saw and learned about many other wildlife species that share habitat with tigers and benefit from efforts to protect them.  I also met many people who are dedicated to conserving the biodiversity-rich Endau-Rompin landscape of southern Peninsular Malaysia.

Endau-Rompin is one of four forest complexes that form the Central Spine Forest of Peninsular Malaysia.  This large forested area (see orange area in map) spans much of the peninsula and is home to incredible biodiversity.  During just a few days there I managed to see endangered Asian elephants, two tiger prey species (wild boar and bearded pigs), three primates (pig-tailed macaque, long-tailed macaque, and dusky leaf monkey), short-tailed mongoose, monitor lizards, crested serpent eagles, orange-backed woodpeckers, white-throated kingfishers, and giant termite mounds.  On multiple occasions, I also heard white-handed gibbons singing in the distance.

I’m here in Endau-Rompin because it’s a very important site for highly endangered Malayan tigers, and the Tiger Conservation Campaign I coordinate is supporting WCS-Malaysia’s tiger conservation projects in this landscape.  But it’s easy to see how the camera trapping efforts to monitor Malayan tigers and the anti-poaching efforts to protect these big cats extend benefits to numerous other species. Like tigers, many of these species are rare and face threats from poaching and/or legal forest conversion to oil palm and rubber plantations.  Learn more about the projects we support and what you can do to help at www.tigercampaign.org.

A Malayan tapir-themed road sign warns drivers of a wildlife crossing area.      A view into the forest canopy in Endau-Rompin.A pair of orange-backed woodpeckers.Tara (TCC Coordinator) behind a large termite mound in the native palm forests of Endau-Rompin.

      Dusky leaf monkeys were hanging out along the side of the road.A pair of long-tailed macaques grooming high in the trees.A white-throated kingfisher in a nearby oil palm plantation.A crested serpent eagle in flight, near an area of forest conversion.

Fresh signs of Asian elephants dot the road.  Hiking in the forest of Endau-Rompin with WCS-Malaysia staff, wearing leech-proof socks.