The rangers were aghast to find the meat of two dead tigers being grilled at a campsite in a local forest.
Tigers in the wild are critically endangered throughout their remaining ranges in South and Southeast Asia, but that has hardly stopped poachers from continuing to hunt the iconic predators any chance they get.
A case in point is the recent discovery of the pelts of two tigers in central Thailand on the country’s border with Myanmar. The pelts were found by Thai park rangers at a campside inside a protected forest where tiger meat had just been left roasting on a grill by four suspects who managed to flee.
In fact, the rangers had been alerted to the presence of the suspected poachers by the smoke billowing from their campfire.
“On seeing the patrol unit, [the suspects] sprang up and fled. The officials gave chase, but failed to catch the suspects, who appeared to know the tracks to follow in the area,” a local newspaper reported.
“When they inspected the camp, the patrol members were aghast to find the meat of two Bengal tigers being grilled at the site. Nearby the tigers’ pelts were being dried. The officials also found four weapons and 29 other items at the site,” the newspaper explained. “A cow carcass, believed to have been used as bait to lure the big cats, was found tied to a nearby bamboo tree.”
Shortly thereafter, the suspected poachers, four Thai men in their 30s turned themselves in to police, telling officials they had decided to kill the tigers because the big cats had been preying on their cows.
Although the dead predators have been identified as belonging to the Bengal subspecies, Bengal tigers are not indigenous to Thailand, which is home to the Indochinese variety. In any event, the loss of two wild tigers to poachers is a blow to conservation efforts in the Southeast Asian nation, whose population of wild tigers now stands at fewer than 200 individuals.
Encouragingly, however, Thailand has been making progress in increasing its tiger populations within several protected forest complexes, even as Indochinese tigers have been declared functionally extinct in neighboring Cambodia and Laos, two countries once home to robust populations of the striped predators.
Stepped-up anti-poaching measures, reintroduction projects and habitat conservation initiatives can still turn things around for the region’s beleaguered tigers, experts say.
Yet such efforts are not without its challenges. “Snaring is very difficult to control because snares are cheaply made, and a single person can set hundreds and sometimes thousands of snares,” one expert has noted.