Of all the big cats, few have suffered more than tigers (Panthera tigris). They have lost 96% of their historic range, and have been reduced to just 3,900 individuals left in the wild (Panthera, 2015d). Thankfully there is now some good news regarding these most magnificent of cats.
Scientists have confirmed the presence of a second breeding population of the rare Indochinese tiger. This highly endangered subspecies consist of only 221 tigers: all of them found in Thailand and Myanmar. According to the IUCN Red List, the Indochinese tiger also appears to be the subspecies from which all other subspecies descended (Lynam & Nowell, 2011). Now their prospects seem just a little bit brighter.
Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (DNP) recently teamed up with the NGOs Panthera and Freeland to study tigers in the nation’s Eastern Forest Complex. Their goal was to find out approximately how many tigers inhabited the region. To do this, they set up a number of camera traps in promising locations. To the scientists’ astonishment, they recorded photos of mother tigers with cubs.
Up until this point, the presence of a breeding population of tigers was seriously doubted in Thailand’s Eastern Forest Complex. So their confirmation is worth celebrating. In addition, it shows how resilient tigers are. The cats in this region are seriously threatened by poaching and illegal logging. However, Panthera’s Dr. John Goodrich claims that the Eastern Forest Complex could hold eight times the amount of tiger it currently does. This means that if poaching and illegal logging are brought under control, the newly-located breeding population could expand greatly.
Granted, it will not be easy to address these threats. Tiger parts are in serious demand for use in traditional Asian medicines, which is helping to fuel the poaching epidemic. But Thailand’s government is working hard to counter it. They have already had success in restoring tiger populations in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex, and may do so in the East as well (Holmes, 2017).
For more information, read Panthera’s original press release and this blog entry from Chris Hallam