Hopes for tigers rise as 6 cubs born in park

Hopes for tigers rise as 6 cubs born in park

A tiger in Mae Wong National Park in Nakhon Sawan where researchers from WWF recently found six newborn cubs. National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Dept photo
A tiger in Mae Wong National Park in Nakhon Sawan where researchers from WWF recently found six newborn cubs. National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Dept photo

Six newborn tiger cubs have been discovered in Mae Wong National Park in Nakhon Sawan province, surprising experts who had not expected to see an improvement in the tiger population.

Rungnapa Phoonjampa, a researcher from WWF, said her team conducted a survey in the park and found that two female tigers had given birth to three cubs each.

She said it is good news and shows the national park has become a significant new tiger habitat in the Western Forest Complex, adding that around 16 tigers were living in the park during the four-year study.

The cubs were discovered by a so-called camera trap, and more than 100 of these have been put up in the forest to closely monitor wild animals, especially tigers.

Ms Rungnapa warned that at least two tigers are now living near the proposed site of the Mae Wong Dam project.

"Thailand offers the highest hope for the Asean region to double its tiger population by 2022. Currently, we have around 250 wild tigers, with the main habitat being forest complexes," she said.

Thailand made a pledge before the world community during a world tiger summit to increase the wild tiger population. The big cats are at risk of extinction with less than 5,000 wild tigers left in the world.

Kittiphat Taraphibarn, chief of the Mae Wong National Park, said the department has been working closely with the WWF to closely monitor the tiger population in the park.

After first detecting a breeding pair of tigers the park realised that tigers could thrive easily there.

He explained that some young tigers from Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Uthai Thani province were moved from the wildlife sanctuary to nearby forest sites while Mae Wong National Park is another good habitat for them.

According to the department, the Mae Wong National Park has outstanding geographic features with a low-lying watershed area which is a key gathering place for wildlife, most of which are favourite prey of tigers.

"Tigers could increase their population rapidly here because of plenty of sources of food, including deer and more. Not only have we seen more tigers, but we have had a report of an Asian black bear in the park as well," he said, adding that the habitat will completely disappear if the dam construction goes ahead.

The discovery of the cubs was publicised after the expertise group of the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning rejected the Environment and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) report for the Mae Wong Dam construction project, saying further study is needed to ensure that ecological loss will be minimised. It also suggested the Royal Irrigation Department which is behind the project think about other options for drought and flood management, instead of a dam.

Gen Surasak Kanjanarat, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, said it is very good news to welcome the six cubs to the park. Based on the discovery, he said it might make it more difficult for the project's EHIA study to be approved.

He also expressed confidence that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will not exercise his absolute power under Section 44 of the former interim charter, which is still valid under the 2017 constitution to construct the dam, saying the premier is a "hardcore conservationist".

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