Highly Endangered ‘Indochinese’ Tiger Species Declared ‘Extinct’: Report

Conservationists in Cambodia have declared the endangered “Indochinese” tiger species “functionally extinct,” confirming that a massive conservation effort to reintroduce breeding populations is currently under way.

The magnificent Indochinese tiger that once prospered in the pristine forest habitats of Thailand, Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, and Vietnam is now believed to have been hunted to extinction. A shocking decline in the number of subspecies had been recorded across its range in recent times, owing to crumbling habitats, unprecedented human encroachment, and more particularly, massive poaching and illegal tiger trade ubiquitous in the region.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

According to the World Wildlife Fund WWF, the last tiger was captured on camera trap in eastern Cambodia nearly ten years ago.

“Today, there are no longer any breeding populations of tigers left in Cambodia, and they are therefore considered functionally extinct,”

In an effort to resurrect the species, the Cambodian government has recently sanctioned a master plan to reintroduce the creatures into the “Mondulkiri” province located at the eastern end of the country.

According to WWF, the loss of tiger habitats is unprecedented in some territories.

“While healthy habitats are extensive in some areas they are under constant pressure from agricultural plantations, mining concessions and inundation from hydropower development. Habitat fragmentation due to rapid development especially the building of road networks, is a serious problem. This fragmentation forces what tigers are left into scattered, small refuges, which isolates populations and increases accessibility for poachers.”

The conservation group says the best hope of the survival of this subspecies is in the Dawna Tennaserim landscape on the Thailand-Myanmar border, where the animals have historically enjoyed some presence. Wildlife experts have also considered using the forests of the Lower Mekong, in addition to Southern Laos and Central Vietnam, as natural restoration spots, where the planned reintroduction of the species may be initiated.

Animal experts believe that major tiger populations are being eradicated owing to a popular demand for wild meat in the region. The animals are ruthlessly hunted down for their body parts, used in the manufacture of traditional folk medicine. According to reports, authorities in Thailand, Vietnam, and China may be allowing tiger farms to persist with the trade associated with tiger products, a practice which in many ways adds to the tiger-poaching menace.

According to recent tiger statistics, all populations have been formally designated as endangered. During the 1900s, tiger numbers may have easily surpassed the 100,000 mark. However, their drastically dwindling populations have reduced the numbers to a staggeringly low 2,154 endangered tigers remaining in the wild. It has now been universally acknowledged that illegal animal trade as well as habitat loss owing to widespread deforestation are the two foremost human-driven causes that have led to the appalling circumstances confronted by these extraordinary animals today.

Indochinese Tiger (Image via Shutterstock)
Indochinese Tiger (Image via Shutterstock)

In 2010, the tiger topped WWF’s list of ten of the planet’s most critically endangered species. In addition to the Indochinese species, the South China Tiger, Sumatran Tiger, Amur Tiger, Bengal Tiger and Malayan Tiger species are among the more endangered species with the first two recognized as critically endangered. A few years ago, leading countries home to tiger populations – namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam – had in concert with one another, initiated a drive to double tiger numbers by 2022.

Meanwhile, tiger conservationists are continuously mapping out tiger habitats using research to monitor and meticulously document the dwindling character of their population. This includes restoring the tiger’s natural habitat, where the animals as well as their prey can thrive in respectable numbers. More importantly, according to them, the role of local wildlife authorities and human settlements located in proximity to tiger habitats is extremely pivotal for restoration

[Image via Shutterstock]

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