Cub Sightings Raise Hopes for Myanmar’s Tiger Population

By Lei Lei 31 July 2019

YANGON—Hopes for the survival of Myanmar’s endangered tigers have been cautiously raised thanks to the discovery of three cubs over the past five years in a wildlife reserve in Sagaing Region.

In the course of a survey conducted by Wildlife Conservation Society-Myanmar (WCS-Myanmar) over the past five years, photographs of three tiger cubs were snapped by camera traps in the Tamanthi Wildlife Reserve, which lies on the eastern bank of the Chindwin River, across from the town of Tamanthi in Hkamti District of Sagaing Region.

“For around 15 years prior to 2015, the tiger population in Myanmar declined drastically. But fortunately, we have had three tigers born in the past five years,” WCS-Myanmar deputy director U Hla Naing told The Irrawaddy.

“Tigers are important, because their habitat spans a large area, and we have to conserve large areas. Conserving tigers means conserving many related and different species and eco-systems at the same time,” he explained.

According to WCS-Myanmar, the Tamanthi Wildlife Reserve is also home to such endangered species as Indochinese leopards, Indian elephants, bears and gaurs, due to its high level of biodiversity.

Myanmar had 85 tigers in 2010, according to the International Tiger Forum.

Tiger habitats in Myanmar cover 12 million acres, or 7 percent of the country, but due to armed conflicts, the recent survey only covered some 10 percent of this area, according to Forest Department director U Naing Zaw Tun.

“Tiger parts from head to toe are illegally traded. We hear they are traded in Mongla [in Shan State], but we have no exact data because we can’t go there,” he said.

Northern areas including the Hukaung Valley and the Upper Chindwin area, as well as the Tanintharyi-Dawna mountain range in southern Myanmar are home to tigers.

Tigers are protected under Myanmar’s Biodiversity and Conservation of Protected Areas Law. Those convicted of poaching, killing, hurting, collecting or trading tigers face three to 10 years in prison.

With the recent removal of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam from the list of Tiger Range Countries, there are now only 10 countries in the world where tigers can found in the wild. The population is estimated to be less than 4,000 worldwide, with most living in India. According to Indian media, that country’s wild tiger population has actually increased by more than 30 percent over the past four years, to 2,967 tigers from 2,226.

International Tiger Day, created in 2010 at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit, is celebrated annually on July 29 to raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation.

Poaching of tigers’ prey, as well as illegal logging and mining in tiger habitats, hamper conservation efforts, according to WCS-Myanmar.

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