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January 19, 2020

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Footage spurs hope for Thai big cat population

A male tiger noses the bloodied carcass of its latest kill in a Thai national park, extraordinary footage conservationists are hailing as a rare spot of good news for the endangered big cats.

The species has teetered on the brink of extinction across the Mekong region due to deforestation and demand for its striking pelts and body parts in traditional medicine. But a pocket of forest split between Thailand and Myanmar — known as the Dawna Tenasserim — has become a holdout for the big cat.

Sightings of wild tigers are rare, but Thailand remains “one of the last strongholds” for them in Southeast Asia, WWF said.

Camera traps placed in Thailand’s Mae Wong National Park in western Kamphaeng Phet Province captured in late December a tiger circling a dead wild gaur, known to be the world’s largest bovine.

“Even for tigers, killing a gaur is not an easy task,” WWF-Thailand’s Rungnapa Phoonjampa said. WWF has been tracking the tiger — named “MKM8” — since 2014.

Over the course of two weeks, the tiger returned to the gaur to feed. The national park is a part of Thailand’s tiger recovery plan, which includes trying to increase the population of large prey like gaur and sambar. The park sits within the 18 million-hectare Dawna Tenasserim, which WWF says houses about eight different cat species that range from vulnerable to critically endangered.

Other rare species recorded include the Asiatic golden cat and leopard cat. WWF estimates about 180-220 tigers survive in Dawna Tenasserim, with less than 4,000 remaining in the wild globally.


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