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The Jahai Tribe At The Frontline of Malayan Tiger Conservation

Once upon a time in Malaysia, the lush forests were home to ‘Pak Belang’, also known as the Malayan tiger. This majestic predator, distinguished by its distinctive striped coat, represented strength and resilience for the nation. It even served as the inspiration for the national sports team’s livery. 

However, the Malayan tiger’s population has significantly declined from over 3,000 to less than 150 in the country[1]. The primary threats faced by this fearsome feline include illegal poaching, deforestation, and logging.

Lara Ariffin, the president of RIMAU, a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to protecting tigers and their habitat, believes that tigers can make a comeback if they are provided with essential conditions such as food, suitable habitat, and protection. Examples from countries like Nepal and India, which have undertaken successful conservation efforts, demonstrate that the tiger population can thrive under such circumstances.

Source: Yayasan Hasanah

RIMAU is determined to help solve the [tiger] problem. The most important thing that tigers need is protection from poachers in the rainforest. Lara Ariffin, president of RIMAU[1]

However, saving tigers is not merely about protecting a single species. It involves maintaining the delicate equilibrium of the entire ecosystem.

Tigers are not just an icon. Their role is so important that if we were to lose them, we will lose our rainforests. If tigers are gone, then you get an excess of deers. When you have an excess of deers and wild boar, they will eat all the vegetation up in the rainforest. And then you have this collapse of the ecosystem. Lara Ariffin, president of RIMAU[2]

The Jahai’s Bond With The Forest

In the heart of the Royal Belum forest in Perak, a vibrant array of wildlife thrives. Among them, the Malayan tigers coexist with the Jahai tribe, who have inhabited the forest for generations, possessing an intimate knowledge of its every nook and cranny.

The birds have their history. The deer have their history. The history is kept by the Jahai [people]. We know the stories about them. The tigers’ stories from the beginning of their history, the Jahai [people] know them. – Ardi Bin Kembong, Menraq ranger[2]

Individuals like Ardi, a villager in Kampung Bongor, and Talib Mat Razi from Kampung Sungai Kejar, both belonging to the Jahai tribe, have lived in harmony with nature for decades. The Jahai people have relied on the forest cover, abundant fruits, and the presence of wildlife that frequently roams near their dwellings for daily living. 

However, the rapid loss of forest cover in the diverse Central Spine Forest area and human activities that encroach upon their homes have severe consequences. The resources that once sustained the Jahai are gradually diminishing, jeopardizing their way of life.

A Battle Against Poachers

Poachers relentlessly target every part of the tiger, valuing everything from its whiskers to its tail. The acquisition of this critically endangered species holds the allure of alleged remedial properties and elevated social status.

Shockingly, between 2013 and 2017, a staggering 100 poacher camps were discovered in the Royal Belum forest[3]. Regrettably, the poachers employ a heartless and cost-effective method.

Snares are the poacher’s weapon of choice as they are cheap and easy to set up to catch the tiger. There are known cases of tigers suffering for days after being snared. – Lara Ariffin, president of RIMAU[3]

To combat the pervasive issue of poaching, RIMAU took the initiative in 2019 to establish the Menraq patrol unit, consisting of individuals like Ardi and Talib, who courageously stepped up to protect the very land that abundantly provides for their tribe. 

RIMAU wanted the local community to be a part of the conservation efforts. For them to also benefit financially from the work that’s being done. It is a win-win situation. They are improving their livelihoods and protecting the Malayan tiger at the same time. Lara Ariffin, president of RIMAU[3]

Modern-Day Warriors Earning Their Stripes

Yayasan Hasanah’s involvement in 2022 played a pivotal role in funding a crucial landscape area within the Royal Belum-Temenggor stretch. The support greatly contributed to the ongoing growth of the Menraq initiative.

As it is one of the priority landscapes for Yayasan Hasanah in demonstrating its sustainable development, we are looking to connect the landscapes further. It allows us to demonstrate with evidence that the work we are supporting contributes to species conservation. It provides a way of life [for the Jahai people] that is rewarded by doing what they do best — protecting the forest. – Ivy Wong Abdullah, Head of Environment, Yayasan Hasanah[1]

Over the past four years, the number of rangers in Royal Belum, Aman Jaya, and Korbu has grown from 16 to 46[1]. Talib and four other rangers embark on 14-day expeditions each month, traversing the forest and covering an extensive area of 100 square kilometres. Their tasks include reporting, installing cameras, dismantling snares, and measuring footprints, all in a concerted effort to protect the Malayan tigers and preserve the ecosystem.

For Talib, his involvement in this engagement has a profound and far-reaching impact that extends beyond the surface. It goes beyond mere forest stewardship; it is about crafting a sustainable future for his family. He has witnessed significant improvements in his daily life as a result of his work. 

Nowadays, I am able to see steady improvements in my daily life. I am able to support my family and I have a good income these days. – Talib Mat Razi, Menraq ranger[1]

On the other hand, Ardi finds great significance in caring for his ancestral land and leaving a lasting legacy to future generations of Jahai people.

I joined the Menraq patrol to look after our tanah adat (customary land) and protect the wildlife in this forest. This also allows me to conserve our land for my children and the future generation. I want them to know of the existence of tigers, other animals and the forest that we have lived in for generations. – Ardi Bin Kembong, Menraq ranger[4]

A Roaring Future

In terms of impact, it will take a while before we see the tiger’s numbers bounce back, but we are already seeing changes here in Royal Belum. Lara Ariffin, president of RIMAU[1]

Since the patrollers actively monitor the forest, things are slowly getting better in the Royal Belum forest. Snares, which are the bane of tigers, have already been reduced by 90-95%. As a result of the recent developments, Lara believes the species is on its way to regaining its glory. 

During our lifetimes, perhaps the thunderous roar of ‘Pak Belang’ will once again echo in the forest thanks to RIMAU, the Jahai community and Yayasan Hasanah demonstrating a united front in conservation.

In addition to tiger conservation efforts in the Central Spine area, under its Environment pillar, Yayasan Hasanah is actively running sustainability efforts involving plastic waste reduction. The programme sees 5,462 individuals in 99 communities and schools working to segregate 67.372 tonnes of plastic waste. 

Explore the intersection of justice, philanthropy, and impact investing at The Hasanah Forum, or THF, the social impact conference organised by Yayasan Hasanah. Sign up for the free virtual conference at, held in conjunction with the Asia Venture Philanthropy Conference (, an international event happening in Malaysia co-hosted by Hasanah 20-22 June 2023.


  1. Yayasan Hasanah. (2023). The Hasanah Report 2022: Safeguarding the Malayan Tiger. Link
  2. Our Better World. (2022). RIMAU: When It Comes to Saving the Malayan Tiger, the Time Is Now. Link
  3. A.David. (2022). ‘Even tigers’ whiskers not spared by poachers’. New Straits Times. Link 
  4. R.Ravimalar. (2022). On track to save the tigers with Menraq rangers. Options The Edge. Link

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