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Poaching patrols raise hope for Thailand's tigers

By Tom Rayner, news.sky.com

685 days ago   Article ID# 3758923
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Wildlife Conservation Society

ISLEWORTH, U K (news.sky.com) - Authorities in Thailand are cautiously hoping the growing number of wild tigers in one of the kingdom's national parks could one day be used to help repopulate tigers into other areas of the country.

After 10 years of studies using hidden motion-triggered cameras to track individual animals, researchers at Huai Kha Khaeng national park found its population of wild Indo-Chinese tigers had increased from around 20 in 2006 to more than 50 today.

The research, carried out in conjunction with the Wildlife Conservation Society, identified the intensification of anti-poaching patrols by rangers within the conservation area as the main reason for this rare improvement.

It is the only place in South East Asia that growth of this endangered species has been recorded.

The wider region contains the largest area of natural tiger habitat in the world, but due to poaching, deforestation, and fragmentation of forest areas, the remaining wild tigers are found in increasingly localised areas.

Thailand's environment minister, General Surasak Karnjanarat, recently said he would carefully consider the potential to use a small number of tigers from Huai Kha Khaeng to repopulate other national parks, where wild tigers have not been seen for years.

But the research team in Huai Kha Khaeng have said there is a long way to go, and have warned the threat posed by poaching remains very real.

"Before anything, we have to be sure there will be security for the tigers. Firstly, that it won't negatively affect the tiger population here. Secondly, that there is an effective strategy in place to keep the tigers alive that protects not only the tiger, but their overall ecosystem", said research director Somphot Duangchantrasiri.

There are nearly 200 anti-poaching rangers posted in the Huai Kha Khaeng area.

They stalk hundreds of square miles of dense tropical forest for up to five days at a time, looking for poachers and monitoring the prevalence of other animals that tigers prey upon.

While these 'smart patrols' have only been in place since 2006, Huai Kha Khaeng has been a protected conservation area since the 1970s, but former national park director Pong Leng-Ee remembers the time before that.

He was a leading campaigner for the conservation of forests and wild tigers from the 1960s onwards.

Now in his 80s, he is proud of the shift in public opinion that has transpired over his lifetime.

"At my first proposal to protect the tigers, nobody agreed with me - not even the conservation board," he said.

He hopes the next shift in public attitude will be towards captive tigers, thousands of which are held in farms and tourist attractions in Thailand, and have been the focus of numerous abuse and illegal export scandals.

"It's not right to breed tigers in captivity, not at all. I want to see the tiger in the wild and live and breed in the wild," he said.

Copyright 2018 news.sky.com   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 685 days ago   Article ID# 3758923

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