On Global Tiger Day, WWF Calls for Tigers to Return to Cambodia

Posted on July, 29 2015

On Global Tiger Day, WWF-Cambodia highlights the Cambodian government's plan to reintroduce tigers to the country as part of a broader global goal to double wild tiger numbers across their range.
Phnom Penh, July 29 2015 – On Global Tiger Day, WWF-Cambodia is highlighting the Government of Cambodia’s plan to reintroduce tigers as part of a broader global goal of doubling wild tiger numbers across their range. The goal to double the world’s tiger numbers from as few as 3,200 was developed at a Global Tiger Summit in Saints Petersburg, Russia in November 2010 and agreed by all tiger range countries present. 

As the number of tigers has plummeted in a century, Global Tiger Day aims at drawing worldwide attention to the worrying state of global wild tigers. As few as 3,200 exist in the wild today. 

Committed to Tx2- doubling the number of wild tigers, 13 tiger range countries have pledged their support to realize Tx2 by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger. The 13 tiger range countries are Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Russia, China, Malaysia, Bhutan, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar. 

For Cambodia, the last tiger seen was in 2007. A camera trap image of the tiger was triggered in the Eastern Plains Dry Forest Landscape in Mondulkiri Protected Forest. Cambodia currently has no population of breeding tigers but the Government has an ambitious plan to reintroduce tigers that is supported by WWF. 

“We believe that the habitat and prey base can support tiger reintroduction in Mondulkiri Protected Forest in the Eastern Plains Landscape,” said Sam Ath Chhith. “But we need to make sure that no development takes place within protected areas such as Mondulkiri – especially a planned border crossing and road that would hurt the chances of successful tiger reintroduction.” 

“We hope by reintroducing tiger and promoting the Eastern Plains Landscape we can obtain high level international support and funding to mitigate some of the threats impacting the forest’s endangered species such as wildlife trade, forest loss for agriculture and threats from development,” said Dr. Tom Gray, Manager of Species Conservation for WWF Greater Mekong. 

WWF-Cambodia has started to gain momentum on raising awareness about the tiger reintroduction plan to the general public. One of the initiatives is the “Tigers Around Us” photo contest which requires contestants to take photo of any tiger image or logo they can find around them. The aim is to show the people about how the tiger is deeply embedded in their lives but often remain unnoticed. Winners will be announced at Aeon Mall on 29th July at 5pm along with other activities such as musical performances, games and quiz to celebrate the annual event. 
Globally, WWF experts caution that much work needs to be done if the TX2 goal is to be achieved. 

“There is a tiger crisis in Southeast Asia. Countries are not counting their tigers and are at risk of losing them if immediate action isn’t taken,” said Mike Baltzer, WWF Tigers Alive Initiative Leader. “Political support is weaker and resources are fewer while poaching and habitat loss are at critical levels. Until countries know the reality on the ground they can’t take the appropriate action to protect their tigers.” 

This year, experts from Malaysia suggested that tiger numbers have fallen from their previous estimate of 500 in 2010 to as few as 250 individuals. There are thought to be no breeding populations of tigers in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos and tiger numbers are unknown for Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar. 

“WWF is calling on all Southeast Asian tiger countries to count their tigers and on the global tiger conservation community to focus efforts in the critical Southeast Asia countries,” continued Baltzer.
And there is some hope: Thailand’s government is meeting to assess the status of Thailand’s wild tigers, the Malaysian government recently announced its intention to conduct its first national tiger survey and the Cambodian government is discussing the reintroduction of tigers, with WWF’s support. 

Tigers are endangered. The last global estimate in 2010 put numbers at as few as 3200. Today wild tiger numbers are unknown however all tigers countries have committed to issuing a new global tiger in 2016, the halfway point in the Tx2 goal. 

Poaching is the greatest threat to wild tigers today. Along with ivory and rhino horn, tiger parts are in high demand throughout Asia. It is feared that countries not carrying out national tiger surveys could lose their tigers to poachers without realizing. 

In January this year, India released its latest tiger census results showing an increase to 2,226 from 1,706 in 2010. In May Russia latest survey found as many as 540 tigers, while Nepal last survey in 2013 found an increase from 155 (2008) to 198. There are positive indications of tigers settling and breeding in North-East China. Results from Bangladesh’s first systematic tiger survey found 106 tigers in the Bangladesh Sundarbans. 

National tiger surveys are expensive, labour intensive and often take place in difficult terrain with challenging weather conditions. All these factors are barriers to governments completing the work. However the returns outweigh the investment and NGOs are willing to work with governments to share technical expertise and explore potential funding sources including international and private environment granting institutions. 

For further information on Bhutan and the crisis in Southeast Asia see: http://tigerday.panda.org/ 
Tigers once roamed the forests of Cambodia.
Tigers once roamed the forests of Cambodia, but there are now no breeding populations left in the country.
© David Lawson / WWF-UK
The last tiger in Cambodia in 2007.
This photo, taken by a camera trap in the Eastern Plains Landscape in 2007, is the last known picture of a tiger in Cambodia.
© FA / WWF-Cambodia