The Indochinese Tiger

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3 weeks 4 days ago - 3 weeks 2 hours ago #5099 by WT admin
The Indochinese Tiger was created by WT admin
Thailand is home to the world’s largest population of Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti). The Indochinese tiger occurs in Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Cambodia and possibly southwestern China. It has been listed as Endangered for over 10 years, as the population estimates seriously declined in 2008 and approached the threshold for Critically Endangered, which is 250 individuals..............................................

Thailand is home to the world’s largest population of Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti). The Indochinese tiger occurs in Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Cambodia and possibly southwestern China. It has been listed as Endangered for over 10 years, as the population estimates seriously declined in 2008 and approached the threshold for Critically Endangered, which is 250 individuals. 

The population is believed to comprise of less than 350 wild individuals worldwide. The largest population unit survives in Thailand estimated at 200 (up to 250 may be possible) wild individuals.There are an estimated 85 individuals in Myanmar, and only 20 Indochinese tigers remain in Vietnam as well as small population in one location in Lao PDR. It is considered functionally extinct in Cambodia. Indeed of all the countries it survives in, Thailand is by far the best hope for their potential continued survival as a species as the economically developing status of the other locations poses immense pressures and obstacles to protected areas and their estimates may be outdated already.

In Thailand more than half of the total population survives in the Western Forest Complex, especially in the area of the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. The Western Forest Complex is the most important location in the world for these animals and due to the protection the central two sanctuaries of the complex receive, indochinese tigers are spreading their range throughout the whole complex.

 

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So what are your chances of seeing an indochinese tiger on your Thai forest visits? Probably as close to zero as one can get but its not impossible - 10 years ago it happened to me. I had the amazing experience of seeing a wild tiger in one of Thailand’s national parks whilst alone - an unforgettable experience and one of the two reasons that I then became a “wildlife photographer”.  It then took me a few years to understand that you cannot photograph Thailand’s tigers thinking like a “normal photographer” - you need to change your whole mindset, your whole approach, you need government support, you need to experiment and you need to throw a lot of money at it. Its like climbing a mountain to take a picture only to find theres another mountain in your path/view that needs to be climbed first. 

When I finally got at my first tiger picture, I was overjoyed to say the least. It was an incredibly hard slog to get that partial body, out of focus, overexposed picture. And then it took about two years of refining my fieldcraft, help from friends developing camera setups, friends in local NGOs helping me, photographers who had done this before me, writing project proposals, friends translating and submitting government documents, rangers sharing their knowledge and taking me deep into the forest, and constantly adapting to what the forest kept throwing at me. And of course the support of the Department of National Parks was paramount throughout the whole process - even through the long periods of failure they kept supporting me, without them there would not be a single picture. I am forever indebted.

 

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The Indochinese tiger is a solitary animal, an elusive animal - indeed its that elusiveness that is probably the only reason it still survives today. They live exclusively in forested areas in which they are concealed and camouflaged. They also prefer the mountainous regions to flat ones, as these cater more to their ambush hunting style, dietary species and secluded way of life. Another major factor in them not reaching extinction yet is their ability to keep away from their primary threat - mankind. Humans hunt Indochinese tigers to make use of their body parts for adornments and various dubious traditional medicines. Humans are encroaching upon their natural habitats, developing, fragmenting, and destroying the land. Thailand forest complex’ may be their last hope.

 

Name Play Duration
An Animal of the Night
Ian Edwardes

0:43 min

 

Even though Thailand’s is the largest country population of indochinese tigers known it is still a tiny number if you think that there are only 200 individuals in 100,000 square kilometers of protected forest in Thailand, or an average of 1 per 500 square kilometers. To visualize this think of a tennis court, a tennis court covered in trees so thick that you cannot see the other side - then times by 2,000,000. To see a tiger in Thailand your chances are as slim as slim can be.

Thailand as well as Thailand based NGO’s working with the DNP have various programmes and initiatives underway to promote and rehabilitate the tiger numbers, their target to double the wild population. However, this subspecies remains in critical danger of extinction. And thats why I continue in my attempts to photograph them - to help those who can actually make a difference in the survival of this amazing animal.

 

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Paul Thompson is a member of the Thailand Wildlife Collective - a group of photographers that are creating a “conservation archive” of high quality wildlife images to be used by conservation organizations to help both conserve and increase awareness of Thailand’s bio-diversity. Paul specialises in cryptic mammal photography using camera traps with Ian Edwardes. The collective also includes specialists Ton Smits and Geoff Potter. All the pictures in this article are wild tigers camera trapped in their actual habitat by Paul and Ian. For obvious reasons no locational information is presented.



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