ZSL conservationistis in Thailand, working with the Thai government, have captured images of a tiger in Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary, documenting for the first time the presence of these cats in Salakpra .
The 868 km2 Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary is part of the Western Forest Conservation Complex (WEFCOM). Located next to the Myanmar border, WEFCOM is a priority tiger area. For decades, tigers have been known to live and breed in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in the northern part of WEFCOM. But until the ZSL/Salakpra tiger survey was conducted, there had never been a tiger recorded as far south as Salakpra. Salakpra, linked to Hui Kha Khaeng through the Srisawat Forest Corridor, is an important dispersal area for tigers from Hui Kha Khaeng and holds potential for tiger conservation. With effective protection it could possibly develop into an important core area for tigers.
“Rangers, villagers and hill tribes have maintained for years that there have been tiger sightings and signs south of Huai Kha Khaeng, but there has never been indisputable evidence of this” explained Steve Paglia, ZSL’s Thailand Country Manager.
“Over the last five years, these anecdotal stories have become more common so ZSL worked with the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary and the Thailand National Parks Department to undertake the first comprehensive survey of the area and investigate the presence of tigers and their prey.”
In May 2013, camera traps were set up along known wildlife pathways in two areas of Salakpra. Almost a year later we were rewarded with the first tiger image. Three days after this, the same tiger was captured again in a different part of the Sanctuary. By comparing the Salakpra photos with images in the Huai Kha Khaeng database, the tiger has been identified as a female that was born in Hui Kha Khaeng.
“These two images confirm what rangers and villagers have long suspected - that tigers born in Huai Kha Khaeng are moving at least as far south as Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary,” added Craig Bruce, ZSL’s Senior Programme Manager for Asia. “Tigers are facing a very real threat of extinction in Thailand and across their range. That we now have evidence of tigers in an area where they have not previously been recorded is extremely positive news - it suggests they are using more of the WEFCOM landscape than previously thought. The next stage of our work will be continued camera trapping to build a picture of prey availability in Salakpra and determine whether other nearby areas are also being used by tigers.”
This work has been made possible through ZSL’s partnerships with the Elephant Conservation Network, Panthera, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Estate of Geoffrey Adams, Keidanren Nature Fund and Taiwan Forest Bureau.