Published on: September 12, 2018
Tigers must continue to exist on this earth so that future generations can see and learn about this majestic cat. Here are a few facts about our tigers, and some tips on how we could save them from becoming extinct.
By Vanasobhin Kasemsrina Ayudhaya
At the beginning of the year, there was a lot of press coverage here in Thailand on the slaughter of a Black Tiger by a Thai billionaire. The hunt and killing took place in a protected zone i.e. inside a national park. From the media coverage, we learned that Black tigers are considered rare and endangered and that there are only 500 left in this country.
On the verge of extinction
More alarming is the fact that Indo-Chinese Tigers, which we would normally see in zoos in Asia or on logos and billboards of many famous Asian products such as the Tiger Beer and Asian Tiger Movers are on the verge of extinction!
There are only about 3,200 tigers left in the world – from the 100,000 that existed only a century ago, and currently, only 200 roaming freely in the Thai jungles. Unfortunately, these majestic creatures are at risk of being hunted every day by poachers looking to get paid large sums of money for their body parts and fur. In countries such as in China, tiger parts are in demand and are found in traditional medicines and wine. A male tiger in the black market can fetch up to USD 10,000.
Other causes for the decline in the world tiger population are the depletion of the tiger’s habitable land due to deforestation and the related reduction of their prey.
We have often been misled when we hear quotes that there are over 300+ tigers just in the Si Racha Tiger Zoo alone. These are tigers bred in captivity but in reality, there aren’t so many tigers left in the wild! Currently, there are only 13 countries in the world with tigers roaming in the wild. The largest tiger population is now are in India and Russia.
In Southeast Asia, there are fewer countries left with tigers living in the wild – Thailand and Myanmar are the main ones on the list (since 2016, tigers have not been seen in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam). From the original 9 species of tigers existing in the world, within the last 10 years, we have seen 3 species become extinct – Caspian Tigers, Javan Tigers and Bali Tigers.
Tigers need rich ecosystems
Studies have shown that where there are tigers then there are rich ecosystems that tigers love to thrive in. Tigers demand habitat areas that are dense with vegetation, water holes, and extensive grasslands. Where there are water and thick forests, there would be clean air, mass coverage to prevent climate change factors, and balanced natural surroundings. Similar to our ocean’s ecosystem where there is a natural demand for sharks to exist to maintain a healthy marine cycle, our forests will continue to need tigers at the top of its ecological chain.
Protected wildlife sanctuaries/national parks in Thailand
Today in Thailand, many stakeholders and non-profit organizations are working alongside the Thai Government to help increase the population of Indochinese tigers in Thai forests. There are five wildlife sanctuaries/national park areas that are under the protection of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation where we are beginning to see tigers roaming freely:
- The Western forest area of Maewong-Khlonglan-Umpang bordering between Kampaengpet Province and Myanmar. This area is also supported by WWF and Sueb Foundation
- Huai Kha Khaeng–Thungyai Naresuan forests in Tak Province. This area is supported by WCS and Sueb Foundation
- Khao Yai–Dong Phyayen forest area in Nakorn Ratchasima. This area is supported by WWF, Khao Yai National Park and General Sorayuth’s Foundation
- Kaeng Krachan Forest in Petchburi–Prachuab Kirikhan, bordering Southern Myanmar, is also supported by WWF
- The Hala-Bala Forest Complex in Southern Narathiwat Province
In recent years the forest of Maewong – Khlonglan area was threatened by a major dam construction project, which would have destroyed the habitat of the tigers and their prey. Fortunately, after many people rallied heavily against the project, it has been put on hold indefinitely.
Working to protect tigers in Thailand
In the past five years, much has been done to protect the tigers and reverse the decline in numbers and we are slowly seeing the tiger population escalating. The essential SMART Patrol System (Spatial Monitoring And Reporting Tool) — computerized detectors to help guide rangers in their patrol areas — has been put in place in all major forest sites, along with cameras to help record tiger and other animals passing, covering thousands of square kilometers of the forest. From these cameras, researchers can capture tigers on video and track their movements.
Researchers have learnt that the same tigers have been spotted traveling from one sanctuary to the other to hunt. This is key to help rangers patrol and follow-up to protect these endangered beasts effectively.
Thailand is fortunate to be one of the few countries left in the world that can proudly say that there are tigers in the wild amongst other national treasures. The Thai Government has put substantial effort into supporting WWF’s campaign to “Double The World’s Tiger Population by 2022”. However, the government is only aiming at the numbers to increase by 50% by 2022, as there need to be more preventive measures in place to counter the number of poachers still out there and this is seen as a more realistic figure.
Other methods that could help us protect this awesome animal are to help spread the messages above and to educate the younger generation about the world’s wildlife. With a lack of knowledge, we often take things for granted. With knowledge, we can start to say no to “Traditional Chinese Medicine” that contains animal parts. We can say no to our families buying animal products such as tiger fur or tiger skin rugs. We can say no to purchasing jewelry made from a tiger’s tooth or claws!
I remember a decade ago when shark fin restaurants were located everywhere and shark fin soup was a delicacy loved by Thais. But after a sharp decline in the shark population, massive efforts campaigning to “Say No to Shark Fins” took place. As a result, people cut down on eating shark fin soup in Thailand and many restaurants were forced to close down.
To help support the survival of the tigers and other wildlife, check out the following websites:
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – www.wwf.org
- Wildlife Conservation Society – www.wcs.org
- RaksThai Foundation – www.raksthai.org
- Panthera Foundation- www.panthera.org
- Wild Aid Foundation – www.wildaid.org
- Thailand Tiger Action Plan 2010-2022, http://www.dnp.go.th
- Doubling Wild Tigers 2016 Annual Report, http://tigers.panda.org/reports/annual-report-2016-doubling-wild-tigers/
About the Author
Vana, a Thai national born in the US, has lived overseas for a significant part of her life. She has been a BAMBI volunteer and member since 2014, and now works for B Grimm Company, overseeing their charity and conservation projects including “Saving the Tigers”. Vana enjoys spending her free time exploring Bangkok and its surrounding provinces with her family. She hopes to share her views on nature conservation and her travel experiences with newcomers to Thailand and BAMBI members.
The views expressed in the articles in this magazine are not necessarily those of BAMBI committee members and we assume no responsibility for them or their effects.
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