Poachers arrested as result of wildlife conservation efforts
Thailand’s committed and effective efforts at wildlife conservation have led to the arrest of several tiger poachers, after police were able to match seized tiger skins with camera-trap photos used to track the rare and endangered big cats in the Kingdom’s wildlife sanctuaries. Only an estimated 100 tigers still exist in the wild in Thailand.
In addition, Thai officials recently returned 14 rescued orangutans to Indonesia that had been trafficked into the Kingdom. That brings the total number of trafficked orangutans returned to Indonesia to 52 over the last decade. The repatriations came as international conservationists issued a report saying that over 50 percent of the world’s primates are facing extinction, and Sumatran orangutans were newly placed on that list. Sumatra is one of two Indonesian islands that are home to the orangutan.
The arrests of tiger poachers was spurred when police found tiger skins and body parts while searching a truck at checkpoint in Mae Sot district not far from the border with Myanmar. Poachers often avoid arrest by claiming they had been hunting over the porous border inside Myanmar. Police, however, have been increasingly trained in recent years to spot wildlife traffickers, and were suspicious of the story told by the occupants of the truck.
Police detained the occupants and sent photos of the skins to authorities who searched through images from camera traps in Huai Kha Kaeng wildlife sanctuary. Camera traps are cameras in the forests that take photographs when an animal crosses its path. Researchers and park rangers use the images to track and identify individual animals, and to estimate populations and observe behaviors.
The photos of the seized skins matched images of a mother tiger gone missing and that authorities suspected had been killed by poachers in Huai Kha Kaeng. The poachers were arrested based on the photographic evidence, although police were not able to glean from them any information on the whereabouts of the tiger’s two-year-old cubs, which are also missing.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has taken a hard line against wildlife poachers and traffickers, vowing to show them no mercy under the law. The Kingdom has strengthened laws against trafficking of endangered species and seizures and arrests have risen markedly in recent years.
Some of that improvement in enforcement can be attributed to Thailand working more closely with wildlife protection groups such as Freeland and TRAFFIC to try and end wildlife poaching and trafficking. Among the trainings and joint projects have been courses for rangers and police to improve their capacities at wildlife protection and smuggling prevention, and introduction of up-to-date research and conservation technologies.
Thailand is a leading force in ASEAN-WEN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network, because its improved conservation and anti-trafficking efforts are serving as a model to other ASEAN member states. Thailand also works with conservationists and officials from the United States, which also supports ASEAN-WEN.