The sighting of a tiger and its adorable cubs offers newfound optimism for the tiger species in Thailand.

Cameras have captured 120 tigers from May 2022 to April 2023 in Thailand’s largest conservation area, but the risk of extinction still looms in neighboring countries.

The number of tigers spotted by hidden cameras in the core area of Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuaries has increased compared to the previous year. A rare sighting of a mother tiger with her cubs has also raised hopes of breeding in new areas.

During the exercise that ended in April 2023, camera traps recorded 120 tigers, surpassing the previous year’s count of 100.

Somphot Duangchantrasiri, the head of Khao Nang Ram wildlife research station at the Department of National Parks, sees this increase as a positive sign. However, he emphasizes the need to remain vigilant and continue conservation efforts to prevent a decline in numbers.

Conservation work in Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuaries has been ongoing for years, gradually yielding positive results. In 2007, only 46 tigers were spotted in this area.

The rise in tiger numbers can be attributed to enhanced patrolling to combat poaching, as well as efforts to increase the prey population for tigers, such as sambar deer.

In 2022, Thailand estimated its tiger population to be between 148 and 189. Most of the tigers reside in Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuaries, the core area of the country’s Western Forest Complex. However, there are indications of tiger populations rebounding in other areas as well.

In December, camera traps at Salak Phra wildlife sanctuary, located in the south-east of the Western Forest Complex, captured images of a mother tiger with her two cubs. This marked the first record of cubs being spotted in the area. Further identification work by Panthera Thailand revealed the presence of three cubs.

Rattapan Pattanarangsan, the conservation programme manager at Panthera Thailand, expresses excitement over this discovery. Previously, tigers in the area originated from the core forest and dispersed outward. However, now the area itself is a source of tiger breeding, indicating safety and sufficient prey availability.

Although conservationists had not detected cubs born in the area during the last decade of monitoring, Panthera Thailand estimates that the cubs spotted are approximately eight months old.

The wild tiger population has dramatically declined since the beginning of the 20th century, with their range reduced by 95% due to poaching and habitat destruction. The current estimated global population stands at around 5,574, according to the Global Tiger Forum.

While progress in tiger conservation has been mixed, certain countries have made strides in increasing their tiger populations. India and Nepal have doubled their tiger populations, and Bangladesh and Bhutan have experienced stable or increasing numbers. Russia and China are also making efforts to restore tiger populations in specific regions.

Thailand stands out as one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that has successfully rebuilt its tiger population. However, neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia face the serious threat of tiger extinction.

Anti-poaching efforts, including the use of poacher cameras that can send text alerts to ranchers in areas with phone signal, have significantly reduced the direct threat to tigers. Reductions in livestock raising, commercial bamboo collection, and hunting of tiger prey have also contributed to the recovery of tiger numbers in the Salak Phra wildlife sanctuary.

Despite these improvements, tigers still face threats from human encroachment, forest fires, and the climate crisis, the exact impact of which is challenging to measure, as explained by Rattapan.

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