Thailand: The sad tale of the Tiger
28th January 2017;

The death of a Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) from Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary this month provides a stark illustration as to how our forest “management” has failed abysmally.

Before the death of “HKT-178” – which was caused by shotgun wounds – the seven-year-old Tiger was spotted on Jan 8 by villagers of Lampang’s Mae thot tambon, more than 300 kilometres away from his original habitat in the sanctuary. His ill-fated journey began with the search for food and ended on villagers’ farmland.

Wildlife authorities said they had tracked HKT-178 in the sanctuary, the largest habitat of Tigers, since 2011. Then he was captured on camera the following year in Mae Wong National Park on the northern border of Huai Kha Khaeng. Authorities lost track of him until this month.

The Lampang villagers found him suffering from exhaustion and hiding in a cassava plantation. They tried to save him from his wounds by calling for help from officials at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. Unfortunately, HKT-178 was too weak and eventually lost the fight for his life.

The wounds suggested it was not the work of hunters, wildlife authorities said. It was more likely he was shot by a terrified villager out of self-defence.

In fact, the Tiger was the victim of economic development altering his natural habitat. He was not the first, nor the last, creature to die from this change.

Before this, several Elephants (Elephas maximus indicus) were killed when roaming into villagers’ farmland and plantations to get some food.

The Tiger’s fate highlights the importance of natural forest as a habitat for wildlife. The creature might have survived, had he not been lost while seeking his own territory – an instinctive drive of a wild beast – into human habitat.

His fate also highlights the need to nurture natural forest as a home for wildlife creatures. The fact is we have lost a vast area of forest reserve for infrastructure development projects such as dams, roads and highway construction, as well as uncontrolled expansion of human habitats.

Some roads and highways, like those in the Khao Yai area, disrupt the routes used by wild animals, resulting in dangerous human-animal confrontations.

In some areas, roads simply cut the forest into small fragments of land, which makes it difficult for nature to maintain a balance. Shrinking habitats, with dwindling food sources, put wildlife animals in a difficult situation. That’s the reason they end up roaming plantations that are scattered around their degraded habitat.

Besides, we should not forget that Mae Wong National Park in Nakhon Sawan, which serves as the buffer zone for the Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary, a world heritage site, is under threat from a dam project, proposed for decades by the Irrigation Department.

The dam will compromise the value of the park, which is now being nominated for a world heritage site in its own right. That means the home for Tigers will be further disturbed, and may no longer be suitable as a wildlife habitat.

Despite several public protests, the Irrigation Department has adamantly pushed for the controversial project, ignoring other alternatives, such as dams that are less destructive.

Now EIA studies for the Mae Wong project have been completed and are being considered by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning’s expert committee. It is hoped those experts will treasure the park and keep it, not just for the Tigers’ habitat, but for the sake of balanced development.

Source: Bangkok Post

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