Wildlife & Biodiversity

Why is India considering translocating tigers to Cambodia?

Successful reintroduction will increase tourism income and restore ecological balance for Cambodia

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 28 March 2023

India is considering translocating a few tigers to Cambodia, where tigers have become extinct. The countries signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2022 for the reintroduction of tigers.

This is another step in translocating big cats after India introduced a batch of eight cheetahs to Kuno National Park from Namibia in September 2022.

The last tiger spotting in Cambodia was way back in 2007 on a camera trap. In 2016, the Cambodian government declared that tigers have gone “functionally extinct”.

So why is Cambodia trying to reintroduce tigers now?

According to World Health Organization data, 13 countries make up the total tiger population of the world. These countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

In the year 2010, these countries met and discussed a goal to double their tiger population by 2022. But tigers were then declared extinct in Cambodia, while the governments of Laos and Vietnam are yet to provide evidence of remaining tigers.

India, on the other hand, achieved its goal and has 70 per cent of the global wild tiger population. The main reasons for the extinction of tigers in Cambodia were the destruction of tiger habitats and poaching.

Tigers need large territories to live and hunt and the rapid developmental projects of the country put these habitats under stress. The big cats were also killed for their body parts. Every part of the tiger, from bones to teeth and skin, has been found in illegal wildlife markets in Southeast Asia.

Today, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has recognised two tiger subspecies, commonly referred to as the continental tiger and the Sunda Islands tiger. The Indo-Chinese tiger found in Cambodia is smaller than the Royal Bengal Tiger but belongs to the same subspecies of continental tigers.

Translocating tigers won’t be an easy task. Although India has translocated tigers within the country, it has never done so internationally.

Although multiple challenges lie ahead, the successful reintroduction of this apex predator will increase tourism income and restore ecological balance for Cambodia.

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