The Future of Panthera Tigris in Thailand and Globally

Foto-ilustracija: Unsplash (Edewaa Foster)

The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest wild cat species in the world, and is listed as Endangered under the IUCN Red List in 2011. The tiger is also protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). However, the tiger populations in Thailand and globally are exposed to growing threats, which have raised concerns among conservationists, leading to increased international dialogue and action to conserve and protect the endangered species.

Since the turn of the 20th century, the global tiger population has dropped by 95 per cent, from approximately 100,000 individuals to as low as 3200 in 2010 year. Now there are only 13 recognised tiger range countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam), of which only 10 still have wild functional tiger populations. Today the global population of tigers stands at about 4500.

Thailand is an important habitat for the Indochinese sub-species of Panthera tigris (Panthera tigris. corbetti) and one of the last strongholds for tigers in the Greater Mekong region, however many challenges still remain in protecting and conserving the species.

In 2010, Thailand held an Asian Ministerial Meeting on Tiger Conservation, which was attended by the 13 tiger range countries and ultimately led to the Hua Hin Declaration on Tiger Conservation. A Tiger Summit was also held at St. Petersburg, Russia in the same year, where the tiger range countries adopted the St. Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation, and established a common target to conserve and double the tiger population “TX2” target by the year 2022.

Panthera tigris habitats in Thailand

Currently, there are 17 protected areas situated in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand, of which the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary and Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary are specified as core areas for tiger habitats. The tigers in both protected areas have spread to the upper part of the western forest area, which is located nearby Mae Wong National Park, Khlong Lan National Park, Khlong Wang Chao National Park, and Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary.

It is estimated that approximately 17-20 tigers are currently living in the upper part of the western forest complex, while the lower part of the western forest complex is home to around 11 tigers. Additionally, there are approximately 25 tigers living in Thap Lan National Park in the Khao Yai-Dong Phaya Yen forest complex, and a few in the Ta Phraya National Park. However, the restoration of tiger populations continues to be a great challenge, since no sighting reports of tigers have been made in the past 10 years in areas where reports were previously made. This includes areas such as Phu Kieo-Nam Nao Forest Complex, Mae Ping-Om Koi Forest Complex, and Srilanna-Khun Tan Forest Complex.

Photo-illustration: Unsplash (Fezbot2000)

Forest and ecosystem restoration are essential for conserving Panthera tigris

The establishment of the Si Sawat Non-Hunting Area in the southwestern forest area is currently in the process of becoming an ecological corridor between the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary and the Srinakarin Dam National Park. This will be useful in facilitating the movement of tigers between the forest areas.

Another great hope for tiger conservation is to restore tiger populations at the Khao Yai National Park, after the last sighting was reported in 2001, where 20-28 tigers were found in Thap Lan National Park. However, during 2015-2019, the Thai government had invested in the construction of a tunnel connecting the forest or the wildlife corridor, which showed traces of tigers in the camera traps and SMART patrols.

Source: IUCN