New tiger sighting in Thailand gives hope for conservation

Dr. Rungnapa Phoonjampa is WWF-Thailand's project manager for the country's Mae Wong and Khlong Lan National parks. Read her story about this thrilling new sighting!

A portrait of a woman smiling and facing the camera standing next to a woman with her back to the camera

Dr. Rungnapa Phoonjampa

It has been 10 years since WWF-Thailand’s tiger conservation team started work in Mae Wong and Khlong Lan National Parks—an area that is now a proven tiger source site, or a site from which tigers disperse into other areas. And we now have our gift of hope to celebrate the countdown to the 10th anniversary of our conservation efforts.

In the first week of May, a patrol team performing their daily duties in Mae Wong National Park (which is within Thailand’s Western Forest Complex) stumbled upon a dead sambar. But this was no ordinary carcass. It looked like it had been hunted and left as a feast for later… but by what?

Curious to find out whose prey this was, WWF-Thailand’s tiger conservation team and researchers went back to the forest with the rangers and installed camera traps near the sambar carcass.

Two days later, our camera showed us a new female tiger!

After cross-checking the image with the Khao Nang Ram Wildlife Research Station, we were able to identify the tiger and learned that she was born in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.

The presence of this new female tiger increases the prospects of new cubs in the area, meaning an increase in tiger population. It also demonstrates the importance of long-term tiger monitoring as well as collaboration and information sharing between databases to track the species’ history and understand population trends. This helps inform better conservation efforts and strategy.

From the data we’ve gathered, there is good evidence that the sambar is the main prey for tigers in Thailand. Tiger recovery can be supported by increasing sambar populations, which benefit from enhancing food sources like native grasses and salt licks that, in turn, improves the habitat for all species.

Large, intact forest patches are also crucial habitat for tigers, an umbrella species whose wellbeing also determines that of other animals that occupy the same ecosystem.

WWF-Thailand has been working with The Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation on tiger research and conservation in Mae Wong and Khlong Lan National Parks since 2012. This recent camera trap video provides further evidence of the need to continue protecting this vital landscape for tigers in the region.

We are truly grateful for all those who have contributed to our conservation work and hope to share more good news!