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

Project name:   Khao Laem: Tiger Conservation Survey (Freeland)

Location: Khao Laem National Park 

Goal: Understanding Khao Laem’s current tiger population and degree of connectivity with other tiger populations within Western Thailand is an important step toward informing and facilitating landscape-scale recovery.

Objective 1: Improving knowledge of tigers, prey and threats in KLNP and adjacent areas

Objective 2: Mentoring capacity in DNP staff to manage and analyse data to foster a greater understanding of threats and forest connectivity.  Supporting additional wildlife surveys, and supporting field-based data collection and mentoring enhanced data entry and interpretation.

Objective 3: Reducing specific threats to tigers, including cattle grazing within the park

Background:

Thailand is one of the last strongholds for the Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti). The Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM) supports the largest single population of tigers remaining in mainland Southeast Asia. This landscape overall has received considerable tiger conservation attention; however, WEFCOM’s Khao Laem National Park (KLNP) until recently was largely overlooked. Evidence now confirms Khao Laem is critical as a connecting wildlife corridor and supports a resident tiger population.

Understanding Khao Laem’s current tiger population and degree of connectivity with other tiger populations within Western Thailand is an important step toward informing and facilitating landscape-scale recovery. During the first year of this Wildcats supported project, Freeland implemented opportunistic camera-trap based tiger surveys to identify sites appropriate for a rigorously scientific Spatially Explicit Capture-Recapture (SECR) grid survey, which Freeland will build on in this second phase. Phase 1 & 2 supported patrolling and patrol-based monitoring, increasing patrol coverage, effectiveness, and consequently reporting. Through these activities, the project is improving the understanding of resident tigers and the threats they face and leading to improved management and evidence-led protection strategies facilitating safer tiger dispersal within WEFCOM.

In  2021, Phase 3 will include a programme to remove the up to 5,000 cattle that are being illegally grazed in the National Park. This will include initial surveys and then workshops with graziers and is the start of a process which may take up to three years to complete. 

Cattle grazing in Protected Areas is a massive problem in Thailand, not just in Khao Laem.  It brings a multitude of problems with it too, farmers burning forest to clear for grazing, disease from the cattle crossing to wild bovines, from grazers dogs to other carnivores and grazers are actively engaged in poaching too. There is a noticeable absence of all wildlife, including tigers and prey in cattle grazing areas.  Cattle grazing is a speculative trade and as the price of cattle is quite high, it’s generally not the impoverished local communities conducting it. 

Reports will be published below as they become available.