New Evidence of Three Tiger Cubs Proves Thailand’s Tigers Find Ways to Survive

By Rattapan Pattanarangsan, D.V.M., M.Sc.
Conservation Program Manager, Panthera Thailand

Tiger family in Thailand

Late last year, Panthera and our partner researchers got a great bit of news from one of their motion-activated cameras located deep in the jungles of Thailand. A flash of light showed the presence of three tiger cubs, healthily walking alongside their mother. Read on to learn from Dr. Rattapan Pattanarangsan, Panthera Thailand Conservation Program Manager, about the importance of these three rare Indochinese tigers and what Panthera and our partners have accomplished in the region. 

Of the five distinct tiger subspecies, Indochinese tigers are one of the most imperiled. Some estimates would put their total numbers around 250 in the wild. For these tigers who wander the forests of Myanmar and Thailand (and until very recently, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam), the conservation clock is ticking. What makes matters worse is that the tigers of the Thai rainforest are very cryptic. The dense thicket provides perfect cover — making the use of motion-activated cameras necessary. 

Then one day, our team and partner staff from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (DNP) routinely checked these cameras for signs of any wildlife in the deep jungle of Thailand’s South Western Forest Complex (sWEFCOM). Then those little, striped faces came into view — not one, not two, but three tiger cubs! 

For any species or subspecies known to be very rare, the discovery of new cubs is a major reason to celebrate. But this was so much more — it was triple the excitement! More importantly, it showed us that our initiatives in this threatened ecosystem are working.

Tiger mother

A Tiger Lineage

We deduced that the cubs are the offspring of TWT128F, a female tiger who inhabits the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary. Their father is likely HKT270M, a dominant male in the region. Thanks to extensive conservation work, these tigers were able to move freely through the forest — resulting in the birth of these three little male cubs that will likely follow in their parents’ footsteps. 

We are thrilled with this sighting, especially because it signals a positive change in local tiger behavior. Before, tigers would move out of the core of the Western Forest Complex and occasionally visit Salakpra. Having TWT128F come and settle in Salakpra and even breed highlights how prey populations that we have painstakingly worked to recover are now healthy enough for these tigers to live there. 

It also brings continuity to the tiger population of this fragile ecosystem. In 2018, Panthera highlighted the story of 197F, the only female tiger in Salakpra. While 197F had difficulties finding a mate and has since passed away, TWT128F moved into her territory and successfully mated. This is just another sign that the tiger population here is becoming more resilient.

Tiger cub

The Future of These Three Tiger Cubs

Every measure is taken to protect Indochinese tigers and other jungle wildlife. Over nearly the past ten years, our team and partners have installed over 400 remote cameras and administered 38 long-term monitoring points to study and monitor these elusive tigers deep in the jungle. This totals an astounding 140,000 camera trap days thus far. 

While this may be arduous work, every camera check is worth it. For too long, Indochinese tigers have faced the scourge of habitat loss and poaching, which has decimated their numbers across Southeast Asia, reducing their range to only a fraction of what it was several hundred years ago. In fact, in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, there has been a quadrupling acceleration of habitat loss of potential tiger habitat after the extirpation of the species (all between 2002 and 2014). We couple our remote camera surveys with the support of anti-poaching co-patrols. Since 2020, Panthera-supported co-patrols have traversed 23,220 km (about 14,428 miles), confiscated 40 weapons and assisted in 25 anti-poaching prosecutions.

Tiger cubs playing

We’ll continue to monitor these three cubs and give you updates about how they’re growing! Until then, make sure to learn more about our Tigers Forever initiative and the work we do in Thailand. Our hard work is only just starting to pay off. 

Check out an article about these cubs in The Guardian. Make sure to also learn more about tigers.