New tigers spotted in western Thailand for the first time in four years

Sightings of tigers in western Thailand show that collaborative conservation work is succeeding in the area.

An endangered tiger in western Thailand caught on camera. © DNP/Panthera/ZSL/RCU

Footage and images have been released showing new tigers in a region of western Thailand for the first time in four years.

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These were taken via camera traps as part of a wildlife monitoring program by Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), Panthera and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), in an area adjacent to the largest remaining, and only second known, breeding population of Indochinese tigers in the world.

“These sightings are extremely encouraging for the future of tigers in our country and beyond,” says Dr. Saksit Simcharoen, chief of the Wildlife Research Division for DNP.

“Our rangers and partners at Panthera and ZSL are keenly monitoring the region to determine if these individuals establish territories, ultimately helping to achieve Thailand’s goal of increasing tiger populations by 50% by 2022.”

An endangered tiger in western Thailand caught on camera. © DNP/Panthera/ZSL/RCU
An endangered tiger in western Thailand caught on camera. © DNP/Panthera/ZSL/RCU

Two of the three tigers detected had been previously seen further north, whilst the third is a new tiger that must have dispersed from somewhere else.

The number of tigers in the area is too low for conservationists to calculate the species’ density.

“We captured this footage from camera traps as part of our wild elephant surveys. In more than 20 years of fieldwork, it’s some of the best I’ve seen,” adds Dr. Eileen Larney, ZSL’s chief technical advisor in Thailand.

“To witness apex predators, like tigers, returning to forests means the ecosystem is recovering, which is good for all wildlife. The situation for tigers worldwide remains precarious, but successes like this show that through our work with communities and governments, we can see populations start to recover.”

The partnership between DNP, Panthera and ZSL has involved monitoring wildlife and poachers, training anti-poaching rangers, and supporting the DNP in investigating wildlife crime.

Tigers are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and it’s estimated that there are roughly 3,900 tigers left in the wild, down from 100,000 a century ago. The largest threat to the species is poaching for the illegal wildlife trade.

A target of 2022 has been set for doubling the world’s population of tigers, with successful increases in a number of countries, including India and Nepal. However, losses in other areas means that conservationists believe a doubling in tiger numbers across the species’ range is unlikely.


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Main image: An endangered tiger in western Thailand caught on camera. © DNP/Panthera/ZSL/RCU