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    An Indochinese Tiger cub drinks water at a new enclosure at the Tierpark zoo in Berlin, Tuesday, April 3, 2012.

    Nearly Extinct Thai Tigers Bite Back as Footage Shows Newly Breeding Population

    © AP Photo / Markus Schreiber
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    Indochinese tigers, previously believed to be nearly extinct, have been captured on footage in eastern Thailand - a development hailed by conservationists as a "miraculous one," especially considering the endangered sub-species had almost been wiped out by poachers.

    Tigers, which have been declared "functionally extinct" in countries like Cambodia and are declining in numbers due to poaching, have been given a new lease of life as a newly breeding population was discovered in Thailand.

    Images of the tigers were captured on hidden cameras in the eastern Thai jungle and released by the country's conservation authorities, as well as two other international wildlife organizations — wild cat preservation group Panthera and anti-trafficking group Freeland.

    The newly released footage confirms the presence of the world's second known breeding population of the endangered Indochinese tiger, which Panthera have called "a huge – and rare – win." 

    The only other growing population is based on the border between Thailand and Myanmar, in the Huai Kha Khaeng sanctuary in western Thailand. 

    The groups had been tracking the tigers since 1999 and in a groundbreaking turn of events, for the very first time, camera traps caught images of four mother tigers and their cubs in 2016.

    John Goodrich, Tiger Program Director at Panthera, said that the discovery was "extraordinary" as only 221 Indochinese tigers were thought to be alive in the world today. 

    "The extraordinary rebound of eastern Thailand's tigers is nothing short of miraculous," Mr. Goodrich said in a recent interview.

    "Poaching for the illegal wildlife trade stands as the gravest threat to the survival of the tiger, whose numbers in the wild have dwindled from 100,000 a century ago to 3,900 today," a statement from the organizations said.

    ​Indochinese tigers, which are generally smaller than their Bengal and Siberian counterparts, once roamed across much of Asia. Aggressive poaching and poor law enforcement has meant that many of them are extinct in southern China, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, according to scientists. 

    ​Tiger farms around the region have also boosted the trafficking trade by propping up demand for tiger parts, which are treasured as talismans and used in traditional medicines popular in China.

    "A breeding population here means that the future of this subspecies is less precarious and could potentially even expand — tigers here could disperse and repopulate Cambodia and Laos, where no breeding populations persist," Panthera said on their website.    

    However, this latest discovery only proves that tigers are living to fight another day and this new breed has brought hope back again to a species once considered on the brink of extinction. 

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    Tags:
    poaching, extinction, tigers, environment, trafficking, animals, Asia, Thailand
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