Bangkok, Feb 19 (IANS) A sanctuary in Thailand has become the only site in Southeast Asia where tigers are confirmed to be increasing in population, says a study.
The Government of Thailand, in collaboration with WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), established an intensive patrol system in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary (HKK) in 2006 to curb poaching of tigers and their prey, and to recover what is possibly the largest remaining “source” population of wild tigers in mainland Southeast Asia.
Monitoring of the population from 2005-2012 identified 90 individual tigers and an improvement in tiger survival and recruitment over time.
“The protection effort is paying off as the years have progressed, as indicated by the increase in recruitment, and we expect the tiger population to increase even more rapidly in the years to come,” said lead author of the study Somphot Duangchantrasiri from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Chatuchak, Bangkok.
To monitor the tigers, the scientists employed rigorous, annually repeated camera trap surveys (where tigers are photographed and individually identified from their stripe patterns) combined with advanced statistical models.
“This collaboration between WCS and the Thai government used the most up-to-date methodologies for counting tigers,” one of the authors of the study Ullas Karanth, senior scientist with WCS, said.
Analyses of the tigers’ long-term photo-capture histories and calculations of tiger abundances and densities, annual rates of survival, recruitment and other information provided scientists with direct, comprehensive measures of the dynamics of the wild tiger population in HKK.
“This is an outstanding conservation success coming from an area where wildlife has been struggling for some time,” Joe Walston, WCS vice president of field conservation, said.
The researchers noted that 10-15 years of intensive protection of source sites is required before prey populations attain optimal densities necessary to support higher tiger numbers.
The study appeared online in the journal Conservation Biology.