In 2019, researchers declared the Indochinese tiger extinct in Laos as widespread snaring in Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park picked off the last few individuals of Panthera tigris corbetti. Two years later, scientists found that smaller cat species, such as the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata), were also in decline in the park. It was thought that in the absence of larger predators, smaller cat populations would boom, but this wasn’t the reality on the ground.
“We didn’t see that in the data. We saw their numbers going down too,” says Jan Kamler, with the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. “I think, generally, snaring is the greatest threat to felids in Southeast Asia, more than habitat loss … in some places like Laos and Cambodia that still have habitat, it’s the snaring that has driven them out of these areas.”
Other conservationists say that human-wildlife conflict, persecution and habitat degradation are likely more important factors, especially for the smaller cat species.