Thailand: New population of rare tigers found in eastern Thailand

BBC News 29 Mar 17;

A new breeding population of the critically endangered Indochinese tiger has been found in a national park in eastern Thailand, conservationists say.

Camera traps discovered a small population with at least six cubs in the jungle
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Poaching and the loss of habitat has reduced the global population of the sub-species to under 250.

Conservationists said the success was due to the stepping-up of anti-poaching efforts in Thailand.

Counter-trafficking organisation Freeland and Panthera, the wild cat conservation group, conducted the survey with the support of the Thai park authorities.

Until this find, only one other breeding population of Indochinese tigers - also in a Thai national park - was known of.

"The extraordinary rebound of eastern Thailand's tigers is nothing short of miraculous," said John Goodrich, tiger programme director at Panthera.

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."

Numbers of tigers in the wild have dwindled from 100,000 a century ago to 3,900 today, the groups said in a joint statement.

Thailand was the first country in this region to deplete its forests, to such an extent that by the 1980s it had banned logging. It was also among the first to establish national parks, but initially these were also badly stressed by illegal logging and hunting.

At the time, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and even Vietnam had a lot of pristine forests left, with healthy populations of tigers. Tigers declined in Thailand to the point where in the early 2000s it was thought they were close to extinction.

But since then, massive illegal exploitation has badly depleted the forests and tiger populations in the other countries - even Myanmar - to the point where Indochinese tigers are believed extinct in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and nearly so in eastern Myanmar. Western Myanmar still has a population of Bengal tigers.

Meanwhile, protection has allowed the tiny population of Indochinese tigers in Thailand to recover a bit. So, with its moderately well-run national parks, Thailand finds itself unexpectedly the last stronghold of the Indochinese tiger.


Wild Thai tiger cub footage sparks hope for endangered species
AFP Yahoo News 28 Mar 17;

Conservationists on Tuesday hailed the discovery of a new breeding population of tigers in Thailand as a "miraculous" victory for a sub-species nearly wiped out by poaching.

Images of some tigers including six cubs, captured by camera traps in an eastern Thai jungle throughout 2016, confirm the presence of what is only the world's second known breeding population of the endangered Indochinese tiger.

The only other growing population -- the largest in the world with about three dozen tigers -- is based in a western forest corridor in Thailand near the border with Myanmar.

"The extraordinary rebound of eastern Thailand's tigers is nothing short of miraculous," said John Goodrich, the tiger program director at Panthera, a wild cat preservation group that backed the survey.

The camera trap footage, which shows female tigers and their cubs traipsing through the leafy jungle, was captured with help from the anti-trafficking group Freeland and Thai park authorities.

Indochinese tigers, which are generally smaller than their Bengal and Siberian counterparts, once roamed across much of Asia.

But today only an estimated 221 remain, with the vast majority in Thailand and a handful in neighbouring Myanmar.

Aggressive poaching, weak law enforcement and habitat loss has rendered the animals all but extinct in southern China, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, according to scientists.

Tiger farms around the region have also boosted the trafficking trade by propping up demand for tiger parts, which are treasured as talismans and used in traditional medicines popular in China.

Conservationists and park officials attributed Thailand's success story to a rise in counter-poaching efforts over the past few decades.

But they warned that the breeding populations remained vulnerable and would not thrive without a sustained commitment to busting poachers and taking down the lucrative trafficking trade.

The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai forest complex, where the latest young cubs were caught on some of the 156 cameras, still hosts a only modest tiger density of 0.63 tigers per 100 square kilometres.

It is a ratio on par with some of the world's most threatened tiger habitats, according to Freeland, but still means there is a population of at least 23 of the big beasts roaming wild.

"It's crucial to continue the great progress made by the Thai government to bolster protection for tigers at the frontlines," said Kraisak Choonhavan, the group's board chairman.

"As long as the illegal trade in tigers continues, they will need protection."

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