After 4-Year Absence, Tigers Spotted in Thailand Again Just in Time for International Tiger Day

Footage of three young Indochinese tigers in western Thailand was released on Wednesday to coincidence with International Tiger Day

Tiger and cubs
Photo: Getty

Hope is alive for the future of endangered tigers.

Back in February and March, conservationists captured remote footage of three young Indochinese tigers lurking in western Thailand, marking the first time the big cats have been spotted in the area in nearly four years.

Released on Wednesday to coincide with International Tiger Day, the images were captured as part of a joint monitoring program between Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), global wild cat conservation organization Panthera, and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

In one of the images, a curious tiger approached the camera to check out the device.

"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," John Goodrich, chief scientist and tiger program director for Panthera, said in a press release.

"These tigers’ repeated detections in new areas suggests suitable habitat and prey exists for this small but significant population," Goodrich added. "All to say that our collaborative conservation efforts are paying off at a time when the species needs it the most."

Siberian tiger

According to the release, tiger densities in western Thailand are so low that conservationists cannot make a reliable estimate on how many of the animals live in the area, highlighting the fragility of the population and the significance of the latest tiger sightings.

"These sightings are extremely encouraging for the future of tigers in our country and beyond," said Dr. Saksit Simcharoe, Chief of the Wildlife Research Division for DNP. "Our rangers and partners at Panthera and ZSL are keenly monitoring the region to determine if these individuals establish territories, ultimately helping to achieve Thailand’s goal of increasing tiger populations by 50% by 2022."

"These tigers are in a precarious situation," Dr. Simcharoe added. "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.”

Tigers once ranging across much of Asia have been extirpated from southern China, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam, and much of Myanmar.

As it stands, poaching for the illegal wildlife trade is the gravest threat to the survival of the tiger, whose numbers in the wild have dwindled from 100,000 a century ago to 3,900 today.

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