Camera “traps” hidden in eastern Thailand’s forests have captured a pretty spectacular sight: a population of elusive tigers, roaming to and fro.
It’s a “welcome sign of hope” for the critically endangered Indochinese tiger, whose ranks have diminished in recent years due to poaching and illegal logging, wildlife groups said.
The footage offers the first evidence of breeding tigers and cubs in eastern Thailand in more than 15 years. At least two populations of breeding Indochinese tigers still exist in the wild, researchers confirmed in a new scientific survey.
Posted on dozens of trees, the camera traps revealed a small population with at least six cubs within a national forest complex. After scouring the footage, researchers found the region had an “exceptionally modest tiger density” of about 0.63 tigers per 100 square kilometers, or roughly 40 square miles.
Across Asia, illegal hunting and logging of rosewood trees has reduce the population of Indochinese tigers to just 221 individuals in Thailand and Myanmar. The only other known breeding population is in Thailand’s Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.
Freeland, a counter-trafficking organization, and Panthera, a global wildcat conservation organization, partnered with Thailand’s Department of National Parks to carry out the camera trap survey.
The groups said the discovery of these tigers — tiny though their numbers may be — suggests that anti-poaching efforts in Thailand are actually working.
“The extraordinary rebound of eastern Thailand’s tigers is nothing short of miraculous,” John Goodrich, Panthera’s senior tiger program director, said in a news release. He lauded the Thailand government’s “commitment to saving its most precious natural resource.”
Even so, poaching and logging remain rising threats to tigers and other species throughout Asia, said Kraisak Choonhaven, who chairs Freeland’s board.
Conservationists estimate the number of tigers in Asia has dwindled from about 100,000 a century ago to roughly 3,900 tigers today. Tigers are feared to be all but extinct in southern China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and much in Myanmar.
“As long as the illegal trade in tigers continues, they will need protection,” Choonhaven said in the news release.