Thailand appears to be on target to increase its wild tiger population by 50% over the next two years.  The optimism is due to the growing numbers of the big cats in the western forest complex, where the population is now more than 100, according to a tiger expert.

Saksit Simcharoen, head of the wildlife research division of the Wildlife Conservation Office and Thailand’s top tiger expert at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, has praised a new smart patrol system that is perfectly protecting the animal’s habitat. Mr Saksit said the scheme had become a key factor in increasing the wild tiger population in the highly protected forest areas.

It is estimated that there are around 3,000 wild tigers around the world. Thailand is the world’s largest source of Indo-China tigers with a population of about 100, followed by 22 tigers in Myanmar but zero in other neighbouring countries. “The country’s western forest complex is a significant bridge linking tigers from Thailand to Myanmar and strengthening the species in the long run,” said Mr Saksit.

The number of tigers has increased from 46 to 71 at the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife sanctuary in the western forest complex, from 10 to 18 in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest complex and 10 more had been found for the first time at the Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary, Sai Yok National Park and Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi province.

The country is committed to doubling the tiger population by 2022 under the Hua Hin declaration on tiger conservation, which was signed by 13 ministers at the first Asia ministerial conference on tiger conservation hosted by the Thai government in January 2010.  Thailand and other governments from 13 countries where wild tigers are known to live launched conservation efforts to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, the Chinese year of the tiger.

Currently, there are less than 3,200 tigers living in the forest, down 97% from 100,000 a century ago, due to poaching and loss of forest reserve caused by human activities.