A miraculous sighting has given scientists hope for a brighter future for the endangered Indochinese tiger. In 2017, Conservationists from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) released observed findings documenting a second pair of breeding tigers in the region. Through surveillance cameras, conservationists have been able to estimate that this region of Thailand has up to 58 tigers now (Mongabay News). Smaller than the Bengal tiger, these cats have narrower bodies with thinner stripes. They call parts of Myanmar, Thailand, and once Laos their home. Although smaller, they are quite mighty. They are determined to survive against all the odds stacked against them.
As with many endangered species, the biggest threat that has brought the Indochinese tiger to the brink of extinction is human poaching and habitat destruction. They are often hunted for their fur, meat, and teeth. Some people do so as part of a crime syndicate and others believe there to be medicinal properties linked to the Indochinese tiger. Their remains are then sold as part of an underground ring of sellers and buyers that will pay a pretty penny for a real tiger tooth.
Although they are pretty versatile, being able to survive in grasslands, lush forests, and mountain ranges every year their population numbers have dwindled along with their livable habitat. Habitat destruction to build freeways, mini-malls, and subdivisions has dramatically affected the population of the Indochinese tiger. Once able to wander for hundreds of miles they have been left only a small percentage of what was once their home. Scientists estimated in 2010, that there were around 350 Indochinese tigers left in the wild (WWF). In 2013, Laos had a tragic event occur. Its last wild Indochinese tiger had died, possibly by snare use. Snare use and poaching in the region have not only affected tigers; leopards of the Laos region are thought to be extinct as well (Mongabay). Seeing these numbers you may expect there to be a strong conservation effort to save these tigers, but unfortunately, this has not been the case in the past.
Conservation efforts that focus on caring for and breeding captive Indochinese tiger numbers are very small. Most conservation efforts focus on habitat conservation and aiding wild populations against threats of poaching. As they are not part of a conscious breeding program in captivity the appearance of a mating pair is extremely exciting and important news! Since their dramatic decline (up to 70% in the past decade) this small sliver of hope highlights the resilience of wildlife. They are not giving up easily and neither should we! It is up to people like us to counteract the crimes that have been committed against endangered species, we owe it to them to help.