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Malaysia 'to double tiger stock'

A Sumatran Tiger at the Kuala Lumpur zoo in 2005
The number of tigers has fallen from 3,000 to 500 in the last 50 years

Malaysia has launched a national plan to double the country's wild tiger population by 2020, activists say.

Conservation groups and the government have set an ambitious target of expanding the tiger population from 500 to around 1,000 over 12 years.

Numbers have fallen sharply in recent decades because of illegal hunting.

Conservationists say new security measures will prevent poaching and that jungle corridors will be restored so tigers can roam over larger areas.

The National Tiger Action Plan is the government's first concerted effort to reverse the decline in tiger numbers, instead of merely slowing it.

Although Malayan tigers have been protected by wildlife laws since the early 1970s, their numbers have been hit by demand for their meat and for body parts which are sometimes used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Authorities estimate the wild tiger population has fallen from 3,000 to 500 in the past 50 years, largely due to illegal hunting and the human encroachment and destruction of the tigers' natural jungle habitat.

Malaysia's tropical forests are home to a wide range of threatened animals, including orang-utans, Borneo sun bears, Sumatran rhinoceroses and pygmy elephants.

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