Thai tiger heroes recognized
06 Oct 2008
Bangkok, Thailand: A naval officer who uncovered six tiger carcasses being illegally exported was among 10 Thai nationals honoured recently by the international environmental conservation community.
WWF-Thailand joined fellow environmental organization PeunPa, the International Tiger Coalition and the Save the Tiger Fund to mark International Tiger Day, celebrated around the world to raise awareness of the plight of wild tigers.
Thailand is one of the last places in the world with substantial numbers of tigers left in the wild. It is also a transit country used by wildlife criminals smuggling tigers from other countries on to international black markets.
The 10 “tiger heroes” are all government officers who made a significant contribution to conserving the wild tigers of Thailand and neighbouring countries by learning more about their ecology, patrolling against tiger poachers or stopping traffickers.
In January Lieutenant Commander Teeranan Dangpun, head of the Thatphanom Patrol Station on the Mekong River, stopped and seized two trucks filled with dead carcasses including six tigers, three leopards and two clouded leopards as well as 275 pangolins.
All of these species are protected under Thai law and it is illegal to trade in them. The carcasses were about to be loaded into boats headed for Laos for delivery to customers from Vietnam and China.
Among the other nine to be honoured were three members of Thailand’s Khao Nangrum Wildlife Research Station, three Thai customs officials and a representative of the Thai police force.
“Thanks to Royal Thai officers from the Department of National Parks, Plant and Wildlife Conservation, Customs, Police and Navy, the wild tigers of Thailand and Asia stand a better chance of surviving,” said Mook Wongchyakul of PeunPa.
In the last century, global wild tiger populations plummeted from about 100,000 to around 4,000 today. With only 7 per cent of its original habitat left, the world’s remaining tigers face an uphill battle. Therefore it is extremely important to protect the remaining tiger habitat.
“Tiger range countries like Thailand often get a lot of criticism for not protecting tigers and tiger habitat effectively,” said WWF Thailand Country Director Dr Willam Schaedla.
“But many people here are working very hard to save them. In this regard, Thailand’s tiger heroes deserve a lot of credit for all the ways they have cooperated across agency and organizational lines. They are doing the right thing under tough circumstances.”