Symbol of Bravery, Strength and Grandeur
The Malayan tiger (panthera tigris malayensis) was a symbol of bravery, strength and grandeur in then Malaya, and was always closely associated with the country.
This was when vast jungles and rain-forests covered the still uncut and undeveloped geographical terrains of the country, and when animals roam freely without fear of humans.
It is found only in Peninsular Malaysia, not in Sabah or Sarawak. (Read more on tiger locations in Malaysia here)
The Malayan tiger is smaller than the Indo-chinese sub-specie, and closer in size to the Sumatran tiger (panthera tigris sumatrae).
The average weight for adult males is 120kg and for females is 100kg. The average length (from head to tail) of males is 237cm while females is 200cm.
Until 2004, when research findings identified it as a different endemic sub-specie, it was previously categorised together with the Indochina tiger (panthera tigris corbetti).
It is also known scientifically as panthera tigris jacksoni.
Ubiquitous Spirit of the Tiger
As a symbol of bravery, charm and regality, it is deservedly honored and depicted in the Coat of Arms of Malaysia, the nation.
The leading bank in Malaysia, Malayan Banking Berhad or Maybank, and the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) also have the tiger as their emblem and logo.
Whenever I have a head-ache, it was the first thing my mother wipes on my forehead! It's rather hot, but quite effective. This Tiger balm can still be found and is as popular today.
The players who wore these jerseys seemed to be imbued with the spirit of the tough and relentless, fighting tiger when playing against opponents in international competitions.
Such was the awe, respect and honor given to the Malayan tigers of yester-years.
The Tiger in Malay Culture
In Malay, the Malayan tiger is known as Harimau Belang (Striped Tiger) to differentiate it from other big cats like the panther.
And also prohibitions (pantang-larang) and do's and don'ts that, for instance, may attract or incur the wrath of tigers, especially at night.
Although tigers are strong and brave, in Malay folk-tales they almost always lose out to the tiny but clever Sang Kancil (lesser mousedeer).
The tales are actually allegorical parables by older folks to inculcate in children that wisdom and brain intelligence will always overcome brawn and physical advantages.
There is also a variation or form of the Malay art of self-defence, called the Silat Harimau, that uses the tiger's natural movements, dance and fighting ways as its self-defence methods.
And it is said that masters of Silat Harimau are able to turn into tigers themselves when required. Not sure whether that is true, but read here.
Once a Danger, Now Endangered
Once upon a time the tigers were regarded, albeit mistakenly, as a danger to those who dared to venture into the thick jungles of the country.
But man actually is not their natural prey and, like all animals, they always try to avoid man.
As the human population grows, and rainforests eventually have to make way for social and economic development, day by day they have less jungles to roam, and hence fewer preys to find. Their food is getting scarcer to find in the forests.
The tigers roaming the country that once numbered in the thousands, count for less than 500 today.
It is categorised under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) as an endangered specie at risk threatened with extinction.
With a lifespan of about 15 years in the wild, these fascinating creatures of God are truly in danger of extinction, unless adequate, strong and effective measures are taken to protect them and their habitat.
Time to Save Our Tiger
Without strong protection and conservation measures for the tiger, our future generations may never know the existence of this magnificent and regal animal in the jungles of the country.
And when those Malayan tigers in captivity lose their ability to procreate, then they will also later disappear.
Once they were the perceived danger. Now they are really the endangered ones.
So let us do all we possibly can to save our tiger -- our precious natural heritage.
Once gone, it's gone forever.
Flower of A Banana Plant