Protecting wild tigers in Thailand

By 5th June 2021October 27th, 2021News

The latest report received from Freeland brought home the risks that National Park Rangers face in their work protecting wild tigers in Thailand. The report tells of the deaths of two rangers, one sadly swept away in a flood and the other from drinking contaminated water. WildCats staff has expressed their sorrow to hear about these tragic events. You can find out more about how the families of these men have been supported and what additional emergency resources have been put in place in the full report.

With funds from WildCats Conservation Alliance, Freeland is helping to develop the skills of national park staff in Khao Laem National Park in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM) know as the last stronghold of the Indochinese tiger.

Until recently Khao Laem was largely overlooked by conservation efforts in WEFCOM. However, previous opportunistic camera trap surveys highlighted that tigers were using this forest and that it may be an important corridor between neighbouring Myanmar and the wider protected area areas in Thailand. As a result, further surveys are now being carried out by Department of National Park (DNP) staff with practical support and on-the-job training from the Freeland team. This is reinforced by building capacity within the DNP officials to manage, interpret and analyse surveys to improve the management of the park. 

Freeland is helping to secure a safe future for wild tigers in Thailand by the use of evidence-led protection strategies in Khao Laem to enable safer tiger dispersal across this Southern WEFCOM landscape. During every survey, rangers accompanying the survey staff receive supplementary on-the-job training in map, compass and GPS use, all aimed to increase their SMART* reporting ability. They are encouraged to record every piece of relevant data, which is then entered into Khao Laem’s growing violation and wildlife database. This is supplementary to SMART patrol based reporting and has increased the amount of information in the database enormously. DNP Officials are learning how to analyse this SMART data with assistance from the Freeland teams. This data helps to inform patrol strategies and overall park management. 

Survey data in 2019 found that there were high levels of illegal cattle grazing within the Park. Freeland is now helping the management to engage with the cattle grazers to find a way to remove the cattle. This will be a long progress but in February 2021 there was evidence of some of the graziers responding positively to the engagements.

Project activities and key achievements


  • Four opportunistic ecological surveys were conducted (102 cameras operational over 7,083 days) and one Spatially Explicit Capture-Recapture (SECR) grid survey (37 pairs of cameras over 3292 days). Data from SECR suggests the density of tigers in the survey area is 2.05 per 100km.
  • Six individual tigers were recorded in the ecological surveys and another four individuals in the SECR survey.
  • Only one of the KLNP tigers was ever recorded previously and is in the national database. The others have never been photographed.
  • Nine teams patrolled 455 times, over 1,494 days covering a combined distance of 19,377.20kms (as recorded by SMART).
  • During the first half of 2020, almost the entire park was patrolled at least once.
  • Two major high profile encroachment cases were concluded, one with the demolition of a high-end tourist resort valued at 40 Million Baht (approximately £1 Million).
  • 5 other species of cat were recorded in the camera traps in addition to 36 other species of animals and birds. Three species were endangered and one critically endangered.
  • Survey training was conducted for 44 rangers.
  • Recorded evidence of illegal non-timber forest harvesting during the rainy season. Items collected mostly by migrant Burmese include; bamboo shoots, bamboo, rattan, mushrooms, wild vegetables.
  • 197 cases of illegal activity recorded (poaching, illegal forest harvesting, fishing, logging) compared to 957 in 2019. Cases resulting in court action were 12 in 2020 compared to only 4 in 2019.


* SMART: Spacial Monitoring and Reporting Tool https://smartconservationtools.org/

Camera trap survey team © Freeland/DNP

Patrolling the difficult terrain of Khao Laem National Park ©Freeland/DNP