Govt seeks forest pass solution to help tigers

Govt seeks forest pass solution to help tigers

A tiger is photographed hunting for food at night in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.
A tiger is photographed hunting for food at night in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation is in negotiations to reclaim a forest pass from the military in a bid to improve the wildlife habitat in the Western Forest Complex.

"If the pass is annexed with the national park, the break in the forest will be bridged and tigers from the Upper Western Forest Complex will easily be able to move to into the Phetchaburi and Ratchaburi areas and then onwards into Myanmar. That will enlarge their breeding area," said Songtham Suksawang, director of the National Park Office.

The pass is located between Sai Yok National Park in Kanchanaburi and Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi.

Mr Songtham said the department has talked with the military, which oversees the pass and uses it for security purposes. He said his team were hopeful that an agreement can be reached.

The Western Forest Complex is 12 million rai of forest land located in six western provinces -- Tak, Uthai Thani, Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan, Suphan Buri and Kanchanaburi provinces. Known as the largest and complete forest complex in Southeast Asia, it is 12 times larger than Bangkok.

The area recently received a boost after Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio recently posted on his Instagram about the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, part of the Western Forest Complex.

"In Thailand's Huai Kha Khaeng [HKK] Wildlife Sanctuary, tigers are roaring back thanks to a major long-term effort by the government of Thailand ... As a result, tiger numbers in the sanctuary have risen dramatically, from 41 in 2010-11 to 66 today -- a more than 60% increase," DiCaprio wrote on Monday to mark Global Tiger Day.

The famous actor set up The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which in 2013 donated US$3 million (92.4 million baht) towards tiger conservation in Nepal. The actor also joined the WWF's "Save Tigers Now" campaign. His Instagram account has 33 million followers.

Saksit Simcharoen, the department's chief of Wildlife Research Unit and expert on tiger conservation, said the increasing tiger population is the result of less poaching and better forest protection.

"The tigers in the Western Forest Complex are a showcase for the success of conservation and preservation," he said.

However, there is more work to be done. Recently, one tiger in a group of three that had crossed into Myanmar was reported to have been killed, leading authorities to ramp up efforts to ensure a safer environment for wildlife in the region, he said.

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