Why Should Tigers be Reintroduced to Cambodia? | WWF

Why Should Tigers be Reintroduced to Cambodia?



Tigers are one of the most iconic species on the planet, yet they are more than just a beautiful animal. Reintroducing tigers not only benefits Cambodia's forests and wildlife, but the people of Cambodia too. Listed below are some of the key benefits of reintroducing tigers:
 
	© Narendra Gouda / WWF

Eco-tourism

Unique opportunity
Many tiger habitats in Southeast Asia such as mangroves or dense rainforest are not well suited for tourism, whereas Mondulkiri’s open and accessible forests offer an opportunity for successful tiger tourism.
 
Boosting Cambodia's Tourism Industry
Wild tigers in Mondulkiri will draw tourists, particularly those from East Asia, as an exciting new alternative to searching for tigers in India. It will encourage tourists to prolong their stay beyond a visit to Angkor Wat. Paired with the developing tourism around river dolphins, these species specific activities will elevate Cambodia’s tourist industry and will offer a unique experience in Southeast Asian tourism.
 
Increasing National Revenue
  • On top of entrance fees, significant tourism revenue is earned through the supporting infrastructure including vehicle and guide hire, merchandise, hotels and restaurants - all of which can benefit the national economy 
  • Tourism brings opportunity and income to local communities and deters poachers though an increase of attention on the area. It also hugely increases the value of maintaining a flourishing living ecosystem, which can in turn increase motivation for rangers and other frontline staff. 
 
	© naturepl.com / Tony Heald / WWF
Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) crossing the road in front of watching tourists
© naturepl.com / Tony Heald / WWF

Environment: Protecting Forests, Protecting Us

Balanced Ecosystem
Tigers are top predators of the food chain, meaning they play an important role in keeping the forest ecosystem balanced.
 
Healthy Forests benefit us
A balanced eco-system keeps the forests healthy, which in turn benefits people - from local people in Mondulkiri who rely on the forests for their livelihood to urban people in Phnom Penh who use forest products in their day to day lives. Healthy forests benefit the country as a whole by providing fresh water, clean air and regulating the climate to limit extreme weather, such as droughts and storms.
 
Protecting tigers, protects all
Tigers are an umbrella species, which means when they are conserved, it also help to conserve many other species. Tiger conservation brings the highest levels of protection for an area as well as an increase in funds and capacity. The conservation of tigers requires:
  • Large areas of intact forest - the preservation of habitat is beneficial to all species that reside there and keeps eco system services flourishing
  • Good prey numbers - this directly improves the protection of species that are tiger prey, such as banteng, muntjac and wild pig, which then indirectly benefits other carnivores such as leopards and dholes (see Figure1)
  • Systematic biological monitoring through technologies such as camera traps - this improves scientific knowledge of other species and activities in the area as other wildlife is also captured on camera
  • Strict enforcement against poaching and habitat encroachment - an efficient ranger team and enforced laws against poaching help protect some of the forest's  most vulnerable areas and rare species.  
Last hope for Cambodia's endangered species
Without a government-led restoration programme to prioritise land-use in the Eastern Plains Landscape for tiger recovery, it is unlikely that the forest will remain intact. This is due to competing land use aspirations from other sectors across the region.
 
The Eastern Plains Landscape is a crucial habitat for 23 of the world's endangered and critically endangered species such as banteng, dholes and the giant ibis (the national bird of Cambodia). The Eastern Plains Landscape is also the last stronghold for leopards in Indochina and has the largest population of banteng in the world. The tiger reintroduction therefore brings crucial hope and increased protection for a large proportion of Cambodia's endangered species.
 
	© Thomas Gray / WWF-Greater Mekong
Mondulkiri Protected Forest - the location for the tiger reintroduction in Cambodia
© Thomas Gray / WWF-Greater Mekong
 
	© Emma Fry/ WWF-Cambodia
Villagers at a Community Forest committee meeting. These villagers rely on the forest for naturally occurring NTFPs (Non-Timber Forest Products) to supplement their livelihoods
© Emma Fry/ WWF-Cambodia

Figure 1.

WWF population density data for key prey species based on 2013/14 dry season data using robust disctance based line transect sampling within the Mondulkiri Protected Forest core zone (for methodology please refer to this paper which used the same line transect sampling)

Banteng  2.2 ± 0.5 individuals per sq. km. inside the MPF core zone 

Muntjac  2.3 ± 0.4 individuals per sq. km. inside the MPF core zone 

Wild Pig  6.0 ± 1.8 individuals per sq. km. inside the MPF core zone 

Endangered Wildlife Species in the EPL

© FA / WWF-Cambodia © FA / WWF-Cambodia © FA / WWF-Cambodia © FA / WWF-Cambodia

Success for Cambodia

Conservation feat never achieved before
A successful tiger reintroduction to an area of their historic range has never been done on this scale before. 
 
Leader in Southeast Asia
The prestige from this initiative will lift Cambodia into a leadership role for the restoration of the tiger population of the entire Greater Mekong - the EPL can provide a launch pad for recovery in Cambodia, southern Vietnam and southern Laos and would provide a regional model for these neighbouring countries
 
Historic contribution to wild tiger recovery
As one of the thirteen tiger range countries, Cambodia plays an important role in Tx2 - the global goal to double wild tiger numbers by the year 2022. This is one of the most innovative and ambitious conservation goals ever set that has managed to halt the sharp decline in wild tiger numbers for the first time in history. The tiger reintroduction in the Eastern Plains offers a major opportunity for Cambodia to reach it's national commitment towards Tx2, as well as contributing significantly to the global goal of doubling tiger numbers.
 
	© Thomas Gray / WWF-Greater Mekong