Southeast Asia

‘Man-eating’ tigers blamed for four deaths as Malaysia sounds alarm

Authorities in Malaysia have captured two critically endangered Malayan tigers after they were blamed for an unprecedented spree of deaths among villagers.

Tiger traps have been set up in the remote jungles of northeast Kelantan state following a spate of apparent attacks that have resulted in at least four deaths.

The latest victim of a suspected tiger attack was a man who is believed to have been mauled in a rubber plantation in Gua Musang, Kelantan, on Saturday, just days after a Myanmar national was found dead in the same area.

Body parts believed to be of Lalu Sukarya Yahya, 42, an Indonesian migrant worker, were found with marks suggesting an animal attack.

Kelantan’s deputy chief minister Mohamed Fadzli said efforts to trap the animals running wild in rubber plantations have been ramped up, as he blamed mating season for the attacks on humans.

“Since it is mating season, the tigers are roaming around looking for a mate and food. Some tiger packs are also teaching their cubs to hunt, these are the reasons that these animals are attacking humans,” Mr Fadzli said, according to South China Morning Post.

There were two earlier deaths in October, the first involving a man named Pisie Amud, 25, who had gone fishing near the forests of Pos Pasik in Kelantan.

Another man from an indigenous community, Halim Asin, 27, was found dead two days later.

Authorities have called the spate of deadly incidents unprecedented, saying that only four tiger attacks in total, two of which were fatal, were recorded in five years between 2017 and 2022.

The Department of Wildlife and Nature Parks (Perhilitan) in Kelantan on Monday said that they have snared a tiger in the area and are investigating if the animal was behind the two fatalities. They said another was trapped in September and the two have been sent to a wildlife sanctuary.

State Perhilitan director Mohamad Hafid Rohani said traps and camera traps were being set up in Kelantan in the wake of the attacks.

He called on “plantation workers to avoid working alone and provoking wildlife” in the area.

At least one of the victims, however, was not working alone. The Myanmar national who died this month, identified as Ahka Soe Ya, 22, was found in the same village as Lalu in Kampung Meranto in Gua Musang. The rubber plantation worker was working with his wife when he was fatally injured in the attack and died at the hospital after fatal injuries to his neck.

“The hospital confirmed the victim’s death following emergency treatment. The autopsy results indicated that the cause of death was severe head injuries due to a tiger attack,” district police chief Sik Choon Foo said.

Malayan tigers are a critically endangered subspecies of the big cat family that inhabit the lush rainforests of Malaysia. Known for its striking appearance, the Malayan tiger boasts a vibrant orange coat adorned with characteristic dark stripes, and has been designated the national animal of Malaysia.

Only 200 individuals remain in the wild due to habitat loss and poaching, with intensive conservation efforts underway to protect and preserve this unique subspecies.

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