Thailand aims to increase wild tigers by 50 percent

Already praised by international conservation groups for protecting tigers in the wild, Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said last week it is aiming to increase the population of wild tigers living in a major forest complex in the Northeast over the next decade.

The department signed an agreement with the Foundation for Khao Yai National Park Protection last week on International Tiger Day 2017 to achieve that goal.The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) commended Thailand last year for its success in protecting tigers, which are an endangered species, noting the Kingdom’s contributions to a “dramatic uptick” in the global wild tiger population to 3,890 in 2016 from 3,200 in 2010. WWF said it was the first increase in the global tiger population in 100 years.

The chief threats to tigers in the wild are deforestation and rampant poaching, according to WWF. The situation is so dire that tigers have become virtually extinct in some countries neighboring Thailand.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) said the area it will focus on is the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex. The complex was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005 and is home to about 200 wild tigers.

DNP director-general Thanya Netithammakun said his department is committed to doing all it can to increase the tiger population in the complex by 50 percent by 2027. That would meet goals set in the St. Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation. Thirteen other countries that are signatories to the declaration also have drawn up plans to boost the number of tigers within their borders.

The largest population of tigers in the Kingdom lives along the Tenasserim Mountains that separate Thailand and Myanmar along the western border of the country. But a new breeding population of tigers was discovered a few months ago in eastern Thailand in one of its national parks. Six tiger cubs were caught on motion-activated cameras, the first evidence of a new troupe, or streak, of tiger cubs. As they reach maturity, tigers become more solitary.

National Resources and Environment Minister Surasak Karnjanarat said it is possible that the tiger population in the Khao Yai complex is larger than measured, because the big cats are elusive and the area is large.

Achieving the goal would require better management of local human populations and visitors. Khao Yai is one of the most popular national parks in Thailand and draws millions of tourists every year.

UNESCO said “The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex spans 142 miles between Ta Phraya National Park on the Cambodian border in the east, and Khao Yai National Park in the west. The site is home to more than 800 species of fauna, including 112 mammal species.

“It is internationally important for the conservation of globally threatened and endangered mammal, bird and reptile species, among them 19 that are vulnerable, four that are endangered, and one that is critically endangered. The area contains substantial and important tropical forest ecosystems, which can provide a viable habitat for the long-term survival of these species.”