AboutZoos, Since 2008


Evi­dence found of world’s 2nd breed­ing Indochi­nese tiger population

pub­lished 01 April 2017 | mod­i­fied 01 April 2017

Tigress with cubs in ThailandIn a wel­come sign of hope for the endan­gered tiger, a new sci­en­tific sur­vey has con­firmed the pres­ence of the world’s sec­ond breed­ing pop­u­la­tion of Indochi­nese tigers and pro­vided the first pho­to­graphic evi­dence of tiger cubs in east­ern Thai­land.

Announced at a press con­fer­ence today, Thailand’s Depart­ment of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Con­ser­va­tion (DNP), Free­land, a front­line counter-​trafficking organ­i­sa­tion, and Pan­thera, the global wild cat con­ser­va­tion orga­ni­za­tion, hailed the find­ing as a critically-​timed vic­tory for the future of the Indochi­nese tiger, con­firm­ing the first evi­dence of a breed­ing pop­u­la­tion in East­ern Thai­land in over 15 years.

Con­ducted in part­ner­ship by Free­land and Pan­thera with sup­port from the gov­ern­ment of Thai­land, the cam­era trap sur­vey car­ried out in the for­est com­plex in East­ern Thai­land indi­cated a den­sity of 0.63 tigers per 100km2.

Tigress with cubs inspecting cameratrapA trio of tigers, a mother and her two cubs, inspect a Pan­ther­a­Cam. This cam­era was one of over 156 cam­era traps placed by Thailand’s Depart­ment of National Parks (DNP), Free­land, and Pan­thera to sur­vey a crit­i­cally impor­tant pop­u­la­tion in East­ern Thai­land in 2016.
Image credit: DNP/​Freeland/​Panthera.

While these data sug­gest the region sup­ports an excep­tion­ally mod­est tiger den­sity, on par with some of the most threat­ened tiger habi­tats in the world, the results con­versely demon­strate the species’ remark­able resilience given wildlife poach­ing and ille­gal rose­wood log­ging present in the East­ern Thai­land for­est com­plex — a UNESCO World Her­itage Site.

Breed­ing of tigers rep­re­sents a key mile­stone for this UNESCO World Her­itage Site. These and other results have inspired opti­mism that efforts to train and equip pro­tected area rangers are pay­ing off.

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.
Dr. Song­tam Suk­sawang, Direc­tor of the National Parks Divi­sion of the DNP »

Sub­ject to such extreme lev­els of poach­ing, tigers are only believed to have sur­vived in the area due to an early recog­ni­tion of the sig­nif­i­cance of this East­ern Thai­land for­est com­plex for the species’ future in Thai­land, and a strict, long-​term invest­ment in well-​implemented, counter-​poaching law enforce­ment efforts from the national gov­ern­ment. These efforts have been sup­ported by con­ser­va­tion organ­i­sa­tions such as Free­land and Pan­thera.

For more than a decade, the DNP and Free­land have sur­veyed tigers in East­ern Thai­land and trained rangers tasked with their pro­tec­tion after oth­ers gave up on the idea that the area had any tigers. Freeland’s Chair­man of the Board, Kraisak Choonha­van, said, “The exis­tence of tigers here was often doubted, but these recent sur­veys are prov­ing its impor­tance not only nation­ally but region­ally and inter­na­tion­ally as well. It’s cru­cial to con­tinue the great progress made by the Thai gov­ern­ment to bol­ster pro­tec­tion for tigers at the front­lines.” Choonha­van added, “As long as the ille­gal trade in tigers con­tin­ues, they will need pro­tec­tion. Counter-​wildlife traf­fick­ing starts at the source. Here is a mod­ern project that has helped to bring rangers and police together that should be repli­cated across all other tiger range coun­tries, so these pop­u­la­tions can recover.”

Pan­thera Senior Tiger Pro­gram Direc­tor, Dr. John Goodrich, explained, “The extra­or­di­nary rebound of east­ern Thailand’s tigers is noth­ing short of mirac­u­lous, and a true tes­ta­ment to the DNP’s com­mit­ment to sav­ing its most pre­cious nat­ural resource.” Goodrich con­tin­ued, “Even more invig­o­rat­ing, Thailand’s World Her­itage For­est Com­plex is home to prime forested habi­tat that, with sig­nif­i­cant con­ser­va­tion resources, could sup­port eight times as many tigers as it does now. With con­tin­ued infil­tra­tion of rig­or­ous anti-​poaching pro­tec­tion, there is no doubt that this pop­u­la­tion can be fully recov­ered, bur­geon­ing into a tiger strong­hold and serv­ing as a source of life and diver­sity for depleted tiger pop­u­la­tions in Cam­bo­dia, Lao PDR and through­out the species’ range.”

Today, just 221 Indochi­nese tigers are esti­mated to remain in two Asian coun­tries: Thai­land and Myan­mar. Thailand’s Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary, the site where Panthera’s CEO Dr. Alan Rabi­nowitz worked on the big cats in the 1980’s, is home to the largest (3538 indi­vid­u­als) and only other known breed­ing pop­u­la­tion of Indochi­nese tigers.

Once rang­ing across much of Asia, sci­en­tists now fear that tigers are all but extinct in south­ern China, Cam­bo­dia, Lao PDR, Viet­nam and much of Myan­mar. Poach­ing for the ille­gal wildlife trade stands as the gravest threat to the sur­vival of the tiger, whose num­bers in the wild have dwin­dled from 100,000 a cen­tury ago to 3,900 today.

Freeland’s tiger con­ser­va­tion efforts in Thai­land have been sup­ported by Panthera’s Tigers For­ever Pro­gram, David Shep­herd Wildlife Foun­da­tion, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice and Born Free Foun­da­tion.

(Source: Pan­thera press release, 28.03.2017)

UN Biodiversity decade
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Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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