Thailand’s wild tiger population forecast to rise 50 percent

Thailand is advancing as a haven for tigers with conservationists forecasting that the Kingdom’s population of wild tigers will increase by 50 percent in two years as the number of big cats in its forest complexes continues to grow.

Saksit Simcharoen, Thailand’s top tiger expert, credited the SMART patrol system for the rising number of tigers in the wild. The system is proving that it can effectively protect the habitat of the big cats.

The aim of the SMART system – a suite of patrol methods and measurement technologies – is to incorporate science into enforcement efforts. SMART software helps track the movements of poachers and others who would do harm to wildlife. A robust intelligence network also helps guide patrols, along with the integration of law enforcement data with the planning and deployment of rangers.

“SMART is playing a vital role in saving wildlife in Thailand, where the most recent data reveal that tiger numbers and distribution may actually be increasing as a result of targeted patrols,” said Anak Pattanavibool of the World Conservation Society. “The system has become a model approach for protecting wildlife across Southeast Asia.”

Careful protection and expansion of sanctuaries and national parks have been critical in fostering larger colonies of tigers. Tigers once roamed freely across Southeast Asia but have become increasingly rare and under threat because of human overpopulation and deforestation.

“The country’s western forest complex is a significant bridge linking tigers from Thailand to Myanmar and strengthening the species in the long run,” said Saksit, the head of the wildlife research division at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

The number of tigers has increased from 46 to 71 at the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife sanctuary in the western forest complex. The cats have grown from 10 to 18 in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest complex. Ten more had been found for the first time at the Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary, Sai Yok National Park, and Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi province.

Thailand is committed to doubling its tiger population by 2022 under the Hua Hin Declaration on Tiger Conservation. Thirteen ministers signed the pact at the first Asia ministerial conference on tiger conservation hosted by the Thai government in January 2010.

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