Conservationists estimate that today 5,000 tigers remain in the wild, down from 100,000 tigers that inhabited Asia alone just 150 years ago. Now, a new study of the potential for tigers to survive in Thailand has hope soaring that the endangered big cats may not be headed for extinction.
Scientists at the New York based Wildlife Conservation Society, working with a scientific team in Thailand Department of National Park, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation, have been studying Thailand's Western Forest Complex - a 18,000 square kilometer network of parks and wildlife reserves.
They learned that this area can potentially support some 2,000 tigers, which would make it one of the world's tiger strongholds .
The scientists found that the entire Western Forest Complex currently supports an estimated 720 tigers. These tiger densities are lower than those reported by Wildlife Conservation Society scientists from some protected areas in India.
Despite the lower densities, plenty of good tiger habitat remains in Thailand, with 25 percent of the nation still forested, and 15 percent of it managed under wildlife protection legislation, says the Wildlife Conservation Society.
To make these numbers a reality, better enforcement to safeguard both tigers and their prey from poachers is critical, according to the study, which appears in latest issue of the journal "Oryx."
The entire Western Forest Complex is experiencing habitat fragmentation driven by human encroachments as forests are felled and cleared to make room for a growing human population.