Nearly extinct tigers found breeding in Thai jungle

Hope for critically endangered cats as only 221 Indochinese tigers, which once ranged across much of Asia, are thought to remain in Thailand and Myanmar

Conservationists say they have evidence the critically endangered Indochinese tiger is breeding in a Thai jungle, giving hope for the survival of an animal whose total population may be only a little over 200.

Thailands conservation authorities, along with two private organisations, have announced photographs of new tiger cubs in eastern Thailand, supporting a scientific survey that confirmed the existence of the worlds second breeding population.

The other breeding ground is in the Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary in western Thailand.

The Thai agency, along with Freeland, an organisation fighting human and animal trafficking, and Panthera, a wild cat conservation group, said only 221 Indochinese tigers were estimated to remain in two Asian countries, Thailand and Myanmar.

It is feared that tigers, which once ranged across much of Asia, are now all but extinct in southern China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and much of Myanmar, the groups said in a joint statement. Indochinese tigers are smaller than the better-known Bengal and Siberian tigers.

The photographs have raised hopes for the endangered tiger which was feared to have almost been wiped out by hunting, poaching and trafficking. Photograph: Dnp-Freeland Handout/EPA

Poaching for the illegal wildlife trade stands as 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, it said.

The statement noted the tigers remarkable resilience given wildlife poaching and illegal rosewood logging in the eastern jungle.

The Thai forestry department proved that with protection you can not only bring tigers back, but now the western forest complex, specifically Huai Kha Khaeng, is a global model of tiger conservation, Alan Rabinowitz, chief executive officer of Panthera said in a video call from New York.

It is one of the best protected and best tiger areas left in the world. Thailand has shown that you can protect tigers and bring them back. They can do this now in the eastern forest complex as theyve done in the western forest complex.

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