The population of many of Malaysia's iconic wildlife species have fallen to critical levels. Under current conditions, just protecting habitat will likely be insufficient to assure their survival. BORA urgently advocates for a range of pro-active wildlife management approaches to be undertaken across mixed landscapes comprising forest and agricultural areas. To be successful, these initiatives call for the collaboration of plantation managers, experts, government, non-government organizations and local communities.

Undertake targeted habitat improvement inside protected areas

"The Malayan tiger population recovery programme cannot be sustained until and unless the tiger prey population is thriving. That means for every tiger, there are at least fifty sambar deer or wild pigs born annually within each tiger's home range - representing its annual food supply. Currently, this is not happening. Sambar deer have been almost wiped out from Malaysia's forests after more than a century of hunting by humans, and all the best sambar deer habitats are gone.

Meanwhile, African swine fever has decimated wild pig populations from much of the tiger's range. This is perhaps why tigers have ventured out of their forest refuge to prey on domestic animals. A point to remember is that sambar deer are not a species of closed canopy forests or of steep slopes. They need forest edges and flat lands to maintain breeding populations. One way to boost sambar deer populations is to develop and maintain grasslands, as grass provides nutritious food for sambar deer.

BORA is proud to be providing technical assistance and capacity building to boost the carrying capacity of the Al-Sultan Abdullah Royal Tiger Reserve for sambar deer and therefore for tigers. As part of the team convened by Enggang Management Services and the Pahang State Park Corporation, with funding from the European Union, BORA will be developing these essential grasslands. Future approaches may possibly include farming of deer or wild pigs for release at selected areas."

Make space for wildlife in mixed landscapes

Farmers generally want to keep wildlife out of their property, but farms could help sustain populations of wildlife species that cause minimal damage to crops (or where the potential for damage could be mitigated) by providing space for feeding and for moving between protected areas. This would apply to oil palm, rubber and industrial tree plantations.

A mindset shift among big land-owners, at both corporate and estate management levels could lead to changes in land management which positively impact conservation. For example, there is a sparse population of Bornean orangutans in theKinabatangan region of Sabah, where 90% of the land is under oil palmplantationsthrough the landscape to mate withfemales living in scattered forest patches.

Work is already underway with partner oil palm plantations in Kinabatangan, Sabah, in conducting experimental habitat restoration in favour of orangutans. This is done by enriching riparian zones, slopes, infertile sites, High Conservation Value sites and other set-aside lands with orangutans’ favoured food plants. The experimental work is done by BORA as a component of the WWF Living Landscapes programme, funded by WWF-Malaysia/Unilever. The source of planting materials is primarily the Sabah Ficus Germplasm Centre.

Consider conservation breeding

In cases where the long-term survival of a species in its natural habitat has become untenable, it may be necessary to bring individuals together in managed enclosures with the goal of maximising birth rate. The priority should be to prevent extinction before overall numbers and adequate breeding success reaches a point of no return. The European bison, Arabian oryx, Californian condor and Black-footed ferret are just some examples of endangered species that would now be extinct if this approach had not been applied.

Establish new populations in suitable areas or rewild

Hunting might not be the sole cause of disappearance of a species from a given area. It might be that the current small clusters of animals are in sub-optimal habitat or on infertile soils, or the habitat is now too small to support a breeding population. Despite prevailing concerns over poaching, past hunting might have wiped out a species in places where it could now survive and breed. It is generally safer to have several separate populations of endangered species rather than just one or two.

There are a number of challenges that will need to be considered. If the species is considered as dangerous or destructive, suitable locations will need to be selected to avoid conflict with human settlements. Other challenges include the availability of source animals risk of inbreeding if the founder group is to individuals of some species can adapt well to a new habitat; the details and logistics of the operation; post-translocation monitoring.

For a few species and a few places, rewilding maybe a vital option. In Malaysia, this will likely be necessary to prevent the extinction of the Malayan tiger. The process will be difficult - but not impossible.

Assisted Reproductive Technology

Once dead, the genomes of numerous endangered animals are lost forever. Technology now exists to preserve them alive. In the future, wildlife biologists and governments will thank the pioneers who started collections of cells preserved forever in liquid nitrogen. In vitro fertilization and embryo transfer into healthy females is done routinely in some livestock species (as well as in humans) but not, so far, for wildlife. Culture of living mammal cells is routine in some laboratories. It is now technically possible to create gametes (sperm and egg cells) from mammal somatic cell cultures, and to create embryos. Gametes, embryos and cell cultures can be preserved

Operation Sumatran Rhino (BM version)

"Operation Sumatran Rhino" which premiered in 2016 chronicled the desperate quest to find the last Sumatran rhinos in Sabah's forest in order to try to save this critically endangered species. Filmed over three years, the documentary captures the highs of finding a new rhino, and the suspense of moving her to the sanctuary in Tabin. For a short time, she kindled hope that it would be possible to revive the species. Alas, by 2019, the last of the rhinos in Malaysia passed away. "Operation Sumatran Rhino" was part of the Mission Critical series of documentaries which were featured on National Geographic; it was written and directed by Chris Annadorai and produced by Lydia Lubon. This version in BM may be viewed in full on the website.