Grassland creation and water provision for tiger prey in Thailand
On the border with Myanmar, Kaeng Krachan is Thailand’s largest national park, part of the Dawna Tenasserim landscape, and a WWF-recognized tiger heartland. Due to historic poaching, however, there are only a handful of tigers remaining in the park. Recent efforts to reestablish the tiger population have been hampered by low prey abundance numbering only around 7 individuals per 250 acres, paling in comparison to the 90 individuals per 250 acres found in Indian protected areas.
Thailand is in the midst of its worst drought in 40 years. As a result, sources of freshwater have been depleted, causing adverse impacts to tiger prey species like sambar deer, barking deer, gaur, and wild boar. Most of these species are highly dependent on drinking water and a reduction in water availability increases stress in individuals. Additionally, in their search for water, wildlife will often move outside of park boundaries and closer to communities.
In an effort to boost prey populations, WWF is working with the Department of National Parks (DNP) in Thailand to improve habitat in 79 acres of Kaeng Krachan National Park, using a variety of techniques.
Over the last several months the project team constructed a water hole, several salt licks, and established native grassland in an area of degraded forest. In the coming months, project staff will continue making improvements to the site including removal of invasive species and the creation of fire breaks. A weather station and camera traps have also been installed in the area to allow park authorities to monitor local climatic conditions and wildlife numbers. Based on camera trap imagery, park authorities have already observed abundant gaur, as well as sambar and elephants at the project site. Most notably, a male tiger was spotted with a female tiger nearby the project site in early September. Project activities are set to be completed by the spring of 2021, with continued monitoring to determine long-term success.