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Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Endangered Icon

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As you may have noticed, for the past several weeks one of the “causes” that Walski’s listed on the sidebar has been the Tiger Blogfest 2010, an awareness campaign that this blog has committed itself to participate in.

Well, that campaign is ongoing this week, and Walski’s bad – he totally missed posting his contribution on Monday, April 19th, like he was supposed to.

But, he makes up for it today, April 22nd, Earth Day, which as it turns out, is a day designated to “inspire awareness and appreciation” for this planet’s environment. And one small part of this planet’s environment – namely our nation – is home to a very important animal – the Malayan Tiger.

Now you might be wondering – what is the big deal about this particular animal, and why we should care? 

Well, for one thing, the Malayan Tiger is an endangered species, with only about a few hundred of them believed to remain in the wild.

But for Walski there is another very important reason – the Tiger is an important part of our national heritage, without which, some things we normally take for granted wouldn’t make any sense whatsoever.
(logos, insignias, and tall tiger tales, in the full post)

First off – anyone bothered to look at Malaysia’s Coat of Arms lately? Well, if you’re like Walski, who’s been a tad busy coping with work and life in general, the answer would probably be ‘No’.

Well, no matter. The current version of the Coat of Arms is shown on the right (for older versions see this post at the __earthinc).

The tiger appears not once, but twice on our coat of arms, signifying just how important an icon the big cat is. Walski didn’t really have the time to research exactly why the tiger was used on the Malaysian CoA, but he does know that it has been a permanent feature since the days of the Federated Malay States, way back in 1895.

Obviously, back then there were a lot more of these large cats roaming around in the wild. And there was a lot more wild back then, too. But can you imagine if it were some other animal that was featured? The coat of arms would certainly not have the same oomph if, say, a buffalo were on there, would it?

Perhaps it’s the elegant fierceness of the tiger that invited itself to be immortalized as an important part of the national insignia.

And then, of course, there’s the national car company, Proton.

The tiger is now also part of the iconic emblem redesigned, if Walski’s memory serves, in 2007 as part of our 50th Merdeka celebrations.

Now, say what you like about the automobiles Proton produces, but Walski does like the new logo.

And the reason for that is undoubtedly the stylized tiger that emblazons it.

Again, it would be a totally different logo if any other animal were to be used. It just had to be the sleek and elegant tiger, no equal.

Another iconic business entity that’s truly Malaysian is, of course, Maybank. And guess what that financial house uses as its logo? Yup, you guessed it – the tiger.

The examples Walski’s mentioned here are but a few more prominent ones featuring our beloved large cat. We could also mention products like Tiger Beer and Tiger Balm (obviously), which actually have the feline’s name as part of the respective product brand names.

You might protest to say that both products actually come from Singaporean companies. And you would be absolutely right. Don’t forget, however, that once upon a time that island republic used to be part of Malaysia, and therefore has a heritage that’s shared with us Malaysians.

Be that as it may, to Walski at least, Cow Beer and Elephant Balm somehow just would not sound right at all.

The imagery that the tiger evokes can take many forms, from a symbol of stealth and strength, to elegance, and even fierceness. All these are qualities that man has found in the large feline, known scientifically as the Panthera tigris malayensis, in Malaysia, and as the Panthera tigris jacksoni elsewhere (due to a controversial name-change).

Many people, however, probably will experience fear when the tiger is mentioned. Yes, like any other predatory animal, the tiger has been known to attack humans. But these are very rare occasions, and usually due to the tiger’s territory having been encroached upon, typically because of uncontrolled jungle-clearing. Imagined if your home were one day bulldozed – you’d probably be pretty pissed off, too.

Before he ends this post, allow Walski to indulge in a little bit of story-telling.

Many years ago, Walski had a sort of close encounter with a tiger in the wild. It was during a hiking expedition at Frazier’s Hills, way back in 1979. We won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that Walski, with his siblings and a few cousins in tow, got a little lost hiking in them hills. We had followed a trail that supposedly would lead us back to a different part of the main road we had departed from.

Well, long story short, the trail took us deeper and deeper into the jungle. Walski made the decision to turn back and retrace our steps back to where we had come from because out of nowhere, he began to smell the unmistakable scent of urine – which meant that a tiger was lurking nearby. This is one of those things that his grandfather had told him once – that if you’re in the jungle and start to smell urine, it means that there’s a tiger nearby.

Okay, granted none of us actually saw the tiger that day, but in retrospect, the tiger’s presence actually helped us – because if it were not for the urine stench, Walski would have led our little group deeper and deeper into the jungle, and risk us getting totally, and perhaps disastrously, lost. He hates to admit it, but Walski can be stubborn like that sometimes.

Thinking about it the incident, in retrospect, it is exactly because of that (fortunately) unseen tiger that Walski is able to write this post celebrating this important national heritage – the fast disappearing iconic feline we know as the tiger.

So, this one’s dedicated to you, the iconic tiger – may your stripes forever roam the jungles of Malaysia, unmolested, until the end of time…

~ ~ ~ ~ o O o ~ ~ ~ ~

Happy Earth Day, Malaysia! And, for more information on how you can help with the preservation and protection of our national heritage, the tiger, visit The Malayan Tiger, in particular, their links page, where you can contact any of the numerous organizations listed there. The tiger needs your help for its survival, and every little bit helps…

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