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Rare Indochinese Tigers Spotted in Thailand, Bolstering Hope for Nearly Extinct Species

Mar 31, 2017 10:54 AM EDT
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A newly discovered population of rare Indochinese tigers offer a glimmer of hope for the survival of the critically endangered species.

According to a report from BBC News, camera traps caught footage of a small population of the sub-species in a national park in eastern Thailand. At least six cubs were included, meaning the group is successfully breeding.

Wild cat conservation group Panthera and counter-trafficking organization Freeland conducted the survey that found the new population.

After poaching and loss of habitat obliterated the Indochinese tigers' population to less than 250 individuals, scientists only know of one other small breeding population before this discovery. This second population is a significant milestone in the sub-species' survival and conservationists credit the country's improved anti-poaching efforts for the achievement.

"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," Songtam Suksawang, director of Thailand's national parks, explained. "However, we must remain vigilant and continue these efforts, because well-armed poachers still pose a major threat."

Tigers are struggling for a foothold in the wild with a depleted current population of 3,900. A century ago, there were about 100,000 individuals roaming in the wild.

Jonathan Head, BBC's Southeast Asia correspondent, reported that Indochinese tigers are vulnerable as lost forests reduced their population to just a handful in their former habitats in Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. They're now believed to be extinct in Cambodia, while Thailand's well-run national parks emerge as the last stronghold of the beautiful creature.

"Thailand has shown that you can protect tigers and bring them back," Alan Rabinowitz, the chief executive officer of Panthera, told The Guardian. "They can do this now in the eastern forest complex as they have done in the western forest complex."

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