Tigers Are Functionally Extinct In Cambodia

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Cambodia has launched a plan to return tigers to the country, starting by acknowledging that the apex predator is locally functionally extinct.

If the first stage of solving a problem is acknowledging you have it, Cambodia has taken its hour on this one. According to conservation group WWFthe last recording of a tiger in the country was in 2007, when a camera trap saw one in Mondulkiri province.

Nevertheless there is hope. WWF hasreleased a bookletdemonstrating that, despite the destruction of much of Cambodia’s forests, enough remains to support a sustainable tiger population. More importantly, the government has recognized the importance of the big cats to the local ecosystem, will be willing to reintroduce them to protected forest in Mondulkiri.

The Guardian quotedKen Omaliss of the Cambodian Forestry Administration telling reporters: We want two male tigers and five to six females tigers for the beginning. The long-term aim is a population of 150. Talks are taking place with countries with surviving tiger populations to source wild animals. This is considered most realistic than trying to get animals raised in captivity, where they are now more common, to adapt to having to fend for themselves.

Acquiring the starting tiger population is easy compared to keeping them alive in a country so close to the major customers of tiger products, however. Nevertheless, Omaliss carried an intent to expend between $20 million and $50 million on the project, including enforcement of anti-poaching legislation and protection of prey species.

The money is a big commitment for a country still regaining from one of the worst modern inhumanities and decades of civil war. However, if eventuallytigers do once again burn brightin Cambodia’s forests the plan could pay for itself. WWF notethat, Throughout the 1960 s, Cambodia was even compared to the game lands of East Africa, becoming internationally known for its wildlife, including large numbers of tigers.”

Maybe one day the population will even be large enough for scenes like this. Nachiketa Bajaj/ Shutterstock

The WWF brochure claims 83 percent support for the reintroduction of tigers among villagers living near the Mondulkiri protected forest, where the reintroduction is to occur. It quotesHun Vanne, a ranger in the protected forest, saying, Wildlife keeps the forest ecosystem balanced … I hope that we can protect the forest and wildlife so that it can benefit eco-tourism and supporting villagers’ livelihoods.

Panthera tigris need plenty of province to range across, and are in constant danger of being killed, either by poachers or by understandably anxious populations living nearby. Nevertheless, the recent increase in the population of Indian tigershas proved their decline is not inevitable. Cambodia is one of 13 countries that has made a commitment to being part of doubling wild tiger populations by 2022.

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