Thailand the “only hope” for Indochina tigers

With its conservation efforts producing a growing population of big cats, Thailand’s forests represent the last hope to save the Indochina tiger, according to an academic and author, as the species has already vanished from most neighboring countries.

“If the Indochinese tiger is to be saved from extinction and, through some miracle, allowed to disperse back throughout the rest of its range, Thailand is its only hope,” wrote Gregory McCann, an Assistant Professor at Chang Gung University in Taiwan on the Mongabay website.

McCann said the Indochinese tiger is now extinct in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Thailand is the big cat’s last remaining stronghold, with perhaps two dozen more tigers hanging on in neighboring Myanmar.

Thailand is one of the few countries in the world where the population of tigers in the wild has increased in recent years. About 160 tigers roam the Kingdom’s Western Forest Complex, with a few more scattered in other pockets around the country.

Thai wildlife officials have said they are hopeful that their measures will allow the population of tigers to double in the next few years. Only about 3,000 tigers still in exist in the wild globally.

A “fabulous Thai success story is the Western Forest Complex, bordering Myanmar,” McCann wrote. “It is a place where tigers swarm and mix with Indochinese leopards, Malayan tapir, elephants, gaur, dholes, clouded leopards, gibbons, sambar, and much, much more. Big cats are even dispersing outside of the northern range of the complex, and tigers have been found deep in the south of the Kingdom.”

McCann said Thailand has achieved this success because students in the 1990s fought to preserve the wildlife sanctuary, and the Department of Natural Parks is dedicated and conducts armed SMART patrols to catch poachers.

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