A new breeding population of the critically threatened Indochinese tiger has been found in a national park in eastern Thailand, says environmentalist. Camera traps discovered a small population with at least six cubs in the jungle. Loss of habitat and the poaching has reduced the global population of the sub-species to under 250. Conservationists said the success was due to the stepping-up of anti-poaching efforts in Thailand. Counter-trafficking organization Freeland and Panthera, the wild cat conservation group, had conducted a survey with the support of the Thai park authorities.

Until this find, only one other breeding population of Indochinese tigers – also in a Thai national park – was known of. John Goodrich, tiger programme director at Panthera said, “The extraordinary rebound of eastern Thailand’s tigers is nothing short of miraculous.” “The stepping up of anti-poaching patrols and law enforcement efforts in this area have played a pivotal role in conserving the tiger population by ensuring a safe environment for them to breed”, said Songtam Suksawang, the director of Thailand’s national parks.

The groups said in a joint statement that numbers of tigers in the wild have dwindled from 100,000 a century ago to 3,900 today. Thailand was the first country in this region to deplete its forests, to such an extent that by the 1980s it had banned logging. It was also among the first to establish national parks, but initially, these were also badly stressed by illegal hunting and logging. At the time, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and even Myanmar had a lot of pristine forests left, with healthy populations of tigers. Tigers declined in Thailand to the point where in the early 2000s it was thought they were close to extinction.

But since then, huge illegal exploitation has badly exhausted the forests and tiger populations in the other countries even Myanmar to the point where Indochinese tigers are believed extinct in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos and nearly so in eastern Myanmar. Western Myanmar still has a population of Bengal tigers. At the same time, protection has allowed the tiny population of Indochinese tigers in Thailand to recover a bit. So, with its moderately well-run national parks, Thailand finds itself unexpectedly the last stronghold of the Indochinese tiger.

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