The comeback: Tiger population finally increasing in Thailand

The tiger population in Thailand is finally increasing after enhanced protection measures, a study has revealed.

The team of Thai and international scientists said that Thailand was the only place in Southeast Asia where tigers are confirmed to be increasing in population, and believe even better days lay ahead for the beautiful animals.

“The protection effort is paying off as the years have progressed, as indicated by the increase in recruitment, and we expect the tiger population to increase even more rapidly in the years to come,” said Somphot Duangchantrasiri, the lead author of the study.

The study findings came after the Thai government teamed up with the Wildlife Conservation Society to establish an intensive patrol system in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Uthai Thani to curb poaching of tigers and their prey and to try to boost the wild tiger population.

Sanctuary workers patrol the site. Photo: Wildlife Conservation Society

The eight-year-study from 2005 to 2012, the first-ever long-term study of tiger population dynamics in Southeast Asia, identified 90 individual tigers and an improvement in tiger survival.

To monitor the tigers, the researchers used rigorous, annually repeated camera trap surveys, where tigers are photographed and individually identified from their stripe patterns, combined with advanced statistical models.

“This collaboration between WCS and the Thai government used the most up-to-date methodologies for counting tigers,” said Dr. Ullas Karanth, a senior scientist with WCS and one of the authors of the study.

A tiger caught on camera. Photo: Wildlife Conservation Society

The scientists believe that 10-15 years of intensive protection of source sites is needed before prey populations can reach optimal levels to support a growing tiger population.

Joe Walston, WCS Vice President of Field Conservation said: “This is an outstanding conservation success coming from an area where wildlife has been struggling for some time. 

“The result to date is reflective of the commitment made by the Thai government and its partners to Thailand’s natural heritage. And despite the considerable gains made already, we believe the future looks even brighter.”

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