A New Hope for Tigers in Cambodia

On Apr. 6 2016, tigers were declared functionally extinct in Cambodia, poaching and habitat destruction the major factors in their extinction. According to the WWF, the last tiger was seen on camera trap in the eastern Mondulkiri province in 2007, and with no more breeding populations resident in the Kingdom, the outlook for Cambodia’s Indochinese tigers the outlook was bleak. “It’s [the tiger] been hunted to extinction because of weak law enforcement and the government is now reacting,” said Suwanna Gauntlett, of the Wildlife Alliance.

Talks in Delhi less than two weeks after the grim declaration of extinction was made bring some hope to the situation. The Cambodian government, in concert with the WWF, has approved a plan to reintroduce the creatures into the protected forest areas of Mondulkiri. The plan aims for a population of over 25 tigers in ten years by importing two male tigers and five to six female tigers. The tigers would be released into the wild in 2019.

Tigers from India, home to more than half (2,226) the world’s tigers, could be relocated to Cambodia as part of a plan to increase the animal’s global population and to reintroduce them to the Kingdom. The decision to relocate tigers was agreed to in principle at a ministerial meeting in Delhi of 13 Asian nations with tiger populations.

A successful reintroduction would lead to a healthier ecosystem, whilst boosting Cambodia’s ecotourism market. It could also bode well for efforts to increase tiger populations worldwide. The global tiger population is now estimated to be nearly 3,900, up from 3,200 in 2010.

Cambodia, according to the WWF, “plays a critical role as one of the 13 tiger range countries essential for global tiger conservation.”