New Population Of Extremely Rare Tigers Discovered In Thailand

The tigers were believed to be extinct in surrounding areas.

Credit: BBC

A new population of extremely rare tigers has just been spotted in a national park in Thailand. This discovery by conservationists is proving to be especially promising as the critically endangered Indochinese tigers are a breeding population, as at least six cubs were discovered through the use of camera traps. The tigers have been reduced to dwindling population numbers due to poaching and habitat loss, meaning that there are under 250 left in the wild.

According to reports, the success of the new individuals is due to increased anti-poaching efforts being made in Thailand. The survey of the tigers was conducted by counter-trafficking organization Freeland and Panthera, the wild cat conservation group, together with the support of the Thai park authorities. Before this was carried out, there was thought to be only one other breeding population of Indochinese tigers, which were also in a Thai national park. John Goodrich, the tiger program director at Panthera, said,

“The extraordinary rebound of eastern Thailand’s tigers is nothing short of miraculous.”

The director of Thailand’s national parks, Songtam Suksawang, said, “The stepping up of anti-poaching patrols and law enforcement efforts in this area have played a pivotal role in conserving the tiger population by ensuring a safe environment for them to breed. However, we must remain vigilant and continue these efforts, because well-armed poachers still pose a major threat.”

Credit: EPA

The numbers of tigers in the wild have drastically diminished from 100,000 just a century ago, to merely 3,900 today, according to the conservation organizations. Thailand was the first country in the region to destroy its forests to such a damaging extent that by the 1980s it was forced to ban logging. It was also one of the first countries to establish national parks, although at first these were badly stressed due to illegal logging and hunting. During this time, surrounding countries including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and even Vietnam all had a lot of pristine forests that contained healthy populations of tigers.

In the early 2000s, tiger populations in Thailand were so low that it was thought that they were very small and fragmented. Following this, a huge industry of illegal exploitation has drastically destroyed forests and tiger populations in the surrounding countries, including Myanmar. The destruction was so severe that Indochinese tigers were thought to be extinct in Cambodia, with just a handful in Laos, Vietnam and eastern Myanmar. Despite the new discovery of Indochinese tiger populations in well-run national parks in Thailand, it is crucial to increase and maintain conservation efforts to protect them and stop their numbers from dwindling any further. Despite their small population numbers, Thailand now unexpectedly finds itself the last stronghold of the Indochinese tiger.

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