Thailand tiger sightings hailed as conservation win

BANGKOK (AFP) – Rare footage of previously unidentified tigers prowling the Thai jungle has been lauded by conservationists as evidence of a recovery for the endangered animal.

The zoologists said Southeast Asia is a key battleground in the fight to save the big cats, whose numbers globally have plummeted from about 100,000 a century ago to fewer than 4,000 today.

Demand for their striking pelts and body parts in China and Vietnam, which fuels poaching, is largely to blame. To mark Global Tiger Day on Wednesday, conservation groups working in Thailand released rare photos and videos, the first in four years to capture previously unrecorded individuals in the country.

In the video footage, several tigers slink past the camera traps, but one spots a hidden lens and approaches to investigate, sniffing the device.

Describing the footage as “very exciting”, John Goodrich, chief scientist with conservation group Panthera, said: “It’s a good indicator that what we’re doing is working. We’re starting to see the recovery of tiger numbers in the area.”

Thailand has boosted its conservation efforts over the last decade and is now believed to be home to up to 200 tigers. The kingdom’s western jungles – where the new images came from – host the largest remaining breeding population of the Indochinese sub-species.