For the first time in four years, endangered tigers have been spotted in western Thailand – a positive step toward the country’s goal of increasing tiger populations by 50% by 2022.

In late July, Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), wild cat conservation organization Panthera, and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) announced that their remote camera traps – part of a joint wildlife monitoring program – had caught the big cats in high definition. The footage was taken near one of the only breeding populations of Indochinese tigers in the world, and all eyes are on the region to see if the big cats settle in and establish territories, the DNP’s Wildlife Research Division chief, Dr. Saksit Simcharoen, said in a press release.   

During the last century, 100,000 tigers roamed the planet. Today there are just 3900 in existence, and in the area they were recently discovered, there are so few that scientists have yet to estimate their numbers reliably. 

An endangered tiger in western Thailand, captured on camera at night
A joint wildlife monitoring program's remote camera traps caught the big cats in high definition © DNP/Panthera/ZSL/RCU

Still, according to ZSL's chief technical advisor in Thailand, Dr. Eileen Larney, witnessing “apex predators, like tigers, returning to forests means the ecosystem is recovering, which is good for all wildlife. The situation for tigers worldwide remains precarious, but successes like this show that through our work with communities and governments, we can see populations start to recover.”

In many parts of the world, poachers have run rampant during the pandemic lockdowns, but the DNP has strengthened its patrols during this time, the agency said, using Panthera’s PoacherCams to spot those hunting illegally and notify law enforcement in real-time.

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“These tigers are in a precarious situation,” Simcharoen said in a press release. “Sustained and stronger protection of this area from poaching activity of any kind is the key to ensuring these individuals live on, helping Thailand’s tigers to rebound.”

“In a sea of news casting doubt on the future of our planet’s wildlife, this development is a welcome sign of hope and potential turning of the tide for the endangered tiger in Thailand,” Panthera chief scientist and Tiger Program director Dr. John Goodrich added in a statement. “These tigers’ repeated detections in new areas suggests suitable habitat and prey exists for this small but significant population. All to say that our collaborative conservation efforts are paying off at a time when the species needs it the most.”

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