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Khao Laem: Conservation in one of Thailand’s Frontier Tiger Parks (Freeland)

Project name:   Khao Laem: Conservation in one of Thailand’s Frontier Tiger Parks (Freeland)

Location: Khao Laem National Park 

Goal: A greater understanding of the tiger population within Khao Laem National Park and its role in facilitating tiger recovery across WEFCOM. This will be augmented by an improved capacity of the park to self-monitor and protect its tigers, providing a foundation for population recovery in both Khao Laem NP and WEFCOM overall.

Objective 1: Improved understanding of KLNP’s tiger population and its role in facilitating tiger dispersal within WEFCOM

Objective 2:  Improve park capacity to conduct patrol-based monitoring 

Background:

Thailand has become one of the last strongholds for wild tigers in Southeast Asia. Home to the enigmatic, highly endangered Indochinese tiger, boosting conservation capacity in Thailand’s remaining tiger sanctuaries is critical. Thailand’s Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM) is well established as a tiger conservation landscape of global priority and evidence suggests tigers are dispersing from source sites within this complex to frontier habitats. However, there remain substantial gaps in (1) understanding of where tigers occur and (2) the degree of connectivity and tiger dispersal between its protected areas. While WEFCOM’s Khao Laem National Park (KLNP) has received little conservation attention compared to its other parks, evidence suggests this may be of significant importance for tiger management across this landscape.

Freeland, in partnership with KLNP, has conducted preliminary camera-trap based tiger surveys. These small-scale surveys documented a minimum of five tigers, expanding known tiger range in WEFCOM; these individuals were proven to be new records and potential residents rather than transients from elsewhere. This is generating enthusiasm within KLNP, but further monitoring is constrained by a lack of park-based capacity. As a result, knowledge of this population and its potential links with other tiger habitat within this fragmented complex remains limited. 

Further, as a park not previously recognized as supporting tigers, park capacity for patrolling and patrol-based monitoring (SMART) are not well supported. This has undermined understanding of threats facing tigers, as well as patrol effectiveness. Preliminary support by Freeland, particularly to bolster patrols and patrol-based monitoring are exceeding expectations, catalysed by considerable enthusiasm among park staff.

Traditional hunting by indigenous people (Karen and Mon) within the site is potentially depleting prey populations and although law enforcement by the rangers is interdicting many cases, there are no prey baseline figures for comparative analysis. This project will help establish these for key tiger habitat areas. Although not part of this project we will continue to search for support to develop appropriate outreach interventions, which will explain why tigers and their prey are important to maintaining healthy eco-systems beneficial to communities that reside near the area.

Additional support will improve the capacity of the park to generate critical information on this tiger population, its degree of connectivity with other populations, prey, threats, and patrol effectiveness. This information will then be used to inform both park-specific and landscape-scale tiger management strategies and be critical in conserving tigers across the forest complex.

Reports will be published below as they become available.