Representatives from Cambodia and 12 other countries with remaining tiger populations began a three-day meeting in Bali on Monday to draft a recovery plan for the endangered species. Fewer than 30 wild tigers are estimated to live in Cambodia, and worldwide their number has dwindled to about 3,200.
The Cambodian delegation includes Agriculture Ministry officials and the director general of the Forestry Administration Department, said Omaliss Keo, deputy director of the Forestry Administration’s department for wildlife and biodiversity.
“The general idea is to make a strategy to recover the tiger population,” said Mr Keo, noting that a draft of the National Tiger Action Plan is due in September and the plan will hopefully be finalized by December.
Proposals in the national plan include a 3,000-square-km protected area in Mondolkiri province for tigers to breed, said Men Soriyun, deputy director of the administration’s department for wildlife and biodiversity, noting that if there are too few tigers in the area then more would be introduced from abroad. The draft also strengthens law enforcement to prevent the hunting and illegal trade of tigers and their prey, Mr Soriyun said.
“If we have a habitat for tigers we want to protect everything, including their prey,” Mr Soriyun said.
Mark Gately, Wildlife Conservation Society country director, welcomed plans to restore Cambodia’s tiger population, which was diminished by years of war that resulted in destruction of habitat and poaching.
“[The draft plan] is certainly feasible. It’s very ambitious but that’s a good thing. It shows the government and forestry administration are very committed to conserving tigers in Cambodia,” Mr Gately said.
In January, the WWF For Nature estimated fewer than 30 tigers nationwide, and in February the WCS said there were probably less than 10 tigers in Mondolkiri.
Both organizations are currently conducting surveys in Mondolkiri province to find out how many tigers are actually left.
Camera-traps are being used to capture photographs of tigers in the wild while results from the analysis of scat samples found by sniffer dogs are expected in December, said Thomas Gray, biodiversity advisor for WWF-Cambodia’s eastern plains landscape project.
“We are still waiting for a result from our research to come up with an estimate,” he said.