Tigers are our sons: Jahai perspectives in understanding tiger conservation in the Royal Belum State Park, Perak, Malaysia

By 3rd January 2024Conservation Papers


This paper reports the perspectives and perceptions of Jahai indigenous patrollers and key community members towards the Menraq, a tiger conservation patrolling initiative under which they have been employed, anchoring on community-based conservation in the Royal Belum State Park (RBSP). As a high biodiversity location home to flora, fauna, and indigenous inhabitants, there is a growing interest in community-based conservation efforts in this protected area. However, implementing such efforts in other protected areas globally has resulted in deleterious consequences, especially with the imbalanced power dynamics between indigenous inhabitants and park managers or conservation practitioners and the lack of acceptance to merge two different worldviews in achieving conservation goals. For this case study, we conducted semi-structured interviews, participant observations, and participatory cultural mapping with the Jahai Menraq patrollers and several Jahai elders. We found that Jahai Menraq patrollers rely on the protection given by spiritual tigers called ‘ceboh’ tigers when doing forest-related activities, including their patrolling duties. Our findings highlight how the Jahai people weave their indigenous narratives, especially those related to tigers, into their jobs as tiger conservation patrollers. We argue that the ceboh tiger practice reflects the importance of indigenous knowledge, spirituality, and kinship in tiger conservation at the RBSP. Park management and conservation practitioners should acknowledge these indigenous perspectives in the pursuit of making the RBSP landscape an ‘ethical space’ for conservation.

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