Bringing Back the Roar: India to Reintroduce Tigers to Cambodia

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A report by the World Wildlife Fund recommends at least eight tigers from India—six females and two males—should be translocated into Cambodian forests which could foster the rise in Cambodia’s tiger population to 25 over a period of 10 years.

The Indian tigers would be “re-introduced” in two different locations in Cambodia, where the big cats have been declared extinct, over the next five years. “The tigers would be re-introduced in the eastern highlands of Mondulkiri Protected forests and the Cardamom Mountains in the western part, that covers one million hectares of area,” said Ty, Ministry Secretary of State.

“We have initiated the process of seeking help from India, though it’s not formal yet,” Ty said, adding that India has “expressed willingness to support the reintroduction of tigers in Cambodia.” He said the talks had begun at the level of envoys last year.

Elaborating on Cambodia’s plan, Ty stated: “Under our national tiger recovery action plan, tigers could be reintroduced in Cambodia from 2016 to 2026, for which about $33 million would be required. We are also taking help of our conservation partners, like World Wide Fund for Nature, the Global Tiger Forum, the Global Tiger Index and others.”

WWF reports the last known tiger in Cambodia was reported in the eastern Mondulkiri province in 2007. Tigers belonging to the breeding population are believed to be functionally extinct. However, Cambodian officials believe it is not true.

“We don’t believe that the tigers have become extinct in Cambodia. In the last five years we confiscated 10 tigers from poachers. They were sent to the zoo. I am sure that in Mondulkiri there must be some tigers, but the number would be very low, and the area is very large,” he added. Cambodian dry forests were once inhabited by the Indochinese tiger.

According to Ty, “To make the tiger plan successful, 10 square km area is required for one tiger with adequate numbers of tiger prey in one square km.” In Cambodia, about 60% of the forests are under protection. Cambodia lost most of its tigers due to poaching and deforestation. It is now left with vast “tiger-less” bio-reserves, which includes 1,700 square km of Mondulkiri Protected Forests, 1,500 square km of Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary, 2,000 square km of Seima Protected Forests—a mixed evergreen forest, and 470 square km of Phnom Nam Lyr Wildlife Sanctuary.

Keo Omaliss, Director of the Department of Wildlife and Biodiversity, in Cambodia said, “We still have a long way to go, especially in terms of tiger prey assessment in Cambodian jungles, and to make sure if the Indian tigers could be successfully translocated and reintroduced in the Cambodian forests. First, Cambodia has to be ready to stop the poaching and increasing tiger prey. We need to ensure these factors are incorporated for promoting enclosure breeding.”

WCCLAS News Reporter: Cherelle Wells

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