Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Second Breeding Population of Tigers Found

a mother and two cubs feeding, courtesy DNP
The world's second breeding population of its Indonesian tiger subspecies (Panthera tigris corbetti) was located by researchers recently in Thailand's Dong-Phayayen Kao Yai Forest Complex (DPKY). The ecosystem is a UNESCO world heritage site. The discovery is the second breeding population located in Thailand. Photo traps indicate a density of 0.63 tigers per 100k², or about one and half tigers per hundred square miles. That is a very low density, but provides hope that these tigers are resilient and can recover if aided by sincere conservation efforts. The 156 cameras captured images of tiger cubs in the area for the first time. The forest in which they cling to existence in the wild is the last remaining contiguous forest canopy in Southeast Asia. Loss of habitat as well as illegal hunting have caused the tigers near extirpation. Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary is the other protected area where tigers are still breeding, thanks to intensive patrolling efforts begun in 2005. DPKY is threaten by illegal logging for Siamese rosewood, a highly sought after timber in China.  In 2015, the Thai government formed an elite ranger formation known as the "Hasadin" to combat forest degradation and poaching. {30.01.17}

burning bright in the forest, courtesy DNP
If tigers go extinct in the wild, it will be the most significant loss of a major mammalian carnivore since the North American lion, Panthera leo atrox which died out at the end of the Pleistocene, 1000 years ago. This extinction would be entirely due to man's predation. Currently only an estimated 3000-4000 wild tigers survive. The thirteen tiger range countries agreed to an ambitious program in 2010, the "year of the tiger" to double tiger numbers by 2022. {22.01.15} President Putin hosted a conference in Russia announcing the plan, and has been photographed releasing rescued tigers back into the wild in Amur.  Habitat fragmentation is the most significant contributor to declines in large mammalian carnivores.  Current development plans in Southeast Asia threaten further fragmentation of existing forest.  Consequently, maintaining connectivity of suitable habitat regions is absolutely essential to ensuring the survival of our beloved tigers. DPKY could potentially support eight times more tigers than it does now.  From this stronghold tigers could then be repopulated throughout the region.  Conservationists must work toward that day by continued efforts to end habitat destruction and poaching.