Tiger anti-poaching efforts working, animal rights bill passed

4The once dwindling population of wild tigers in one of Thailand’s main wildlife sanctuaries is continuing to rebound thanks to effective anti-poaching measures put in place by the authorities, according to a Wildlife Conservation Society of Thailand study published last week, as news media also reported that several people have been arrested for animal cruelty as a result of a new law passed less than two years ago.

The success of the tiger protection effort has resulted in a near tripling of the tiger population in the Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary, a World Heritage Site in western Thailand near the border with Myanmar. Scientific American pronounced that in Huai Kha Kaeng “tigers have just one safe habitat in Southeast Asia” in its report on the study. “This is now the only tiger population in Southeast Asia that is growing,’’ the magazine said.

The success is the result of patrols aimed at preventing poaching of tigers and their prey. The patrols are a product of a government partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) of Thailand that began in 2006. Tigers are an endangered species and their numbers in Thailand, and the world, have been rapidly declining.

According to an eight-year study conducted by the WCS and published in the journal Conservation Biology, the patrols have succeeded in reducing poaching and enabling the tiger population to recover and grow. From just 35 tigers identified eight years ago, researchers have been able to identify more than 90 individual tigers in the sanctuary today. They said they expect that the population will expand even more rapidly in the next 10 to 15 years as long as the program is sustained.

Joe Walston, Vice President of Field Conservation at WCS said, “This is an outstanding conservation success coming from an area where wildlife has been struggling for some time. The result to date is reflective of the commitment made by the Thai government and its partners to Thailand’s natural heritage. And despite the considerable gains made already, we believe the future looks even brighter.”

“This collaboration between WCS and the Thai government used the most up-to-date methodologies for counting tigers,” said Dr. Ullas Karanth, a senior scientist with WCS and one of the authors of the study. “It’s gratifying to see such rigorous science being used to inform critical conservation management decisions.”

Meanwhile, animal rights activists in Thailand have credited a new law against animal cruelty with a spate of prosecutions against people who have abused animals, such as a transgender woman who threw her roommate’s pet dog to its death from their fifth-floor apartment and received a month in jail for the act a few weeks ago.

But the activists say there is still a long way to go, as police are often reluctant to use the new law, although public awareness is beginning to be raised.

Roger Lohanan, a well-known animals rights activist in the Kingdom, said that police and other officials may not well aware of what constitutes animal cruelty and the law is too brief and limited.

Additional laws are in the pipeline, though, according to a report by the Singapore Straits Times, which wrote that laws against cruelty to street dogs and elephants are being drafted for consideration by the legislature.