Tigers in the Greater Mekong -- Hope for the Future

The largest combined wild tiger habitat on Earth is found in the forests of the Greater Mekong region. Covering 540,000 sq. km., these forest habitats are priority areas for tiger conservation efforts. Today, around 200 tigers prowl the forests of the region, down from around 1,200 in 1998. WWF is taking action to ensure that wild tigers never go extinct in the Greater Mekong region.

The Western Forest Complex, a 18,000-km2 area that is part of the Kayah Karen Tenasserim ecoregion, has the largest number of tigers in Thailand, and probably in all Southeast Asia.

The last Cambodian tiger was caught on a camera trap in 2007 and they are now considered extinct, but the Camboodian government has an ambitious plan to retsore tigers to the Eastern Plains Landscape by 2022. It is essential that the landscape is protected from poaching, mining, and other development and that the prey base is restored. Find out more about our work on tiger reintroduction in Cambodia here.

Vietnam and Laos
Tigers are considered funcionally extinct in Vietnam and Laos. There may be a handful of tigers in the evergreen forests of the Northern Annamites in Laos and Vietnam, and the Dry Forests/Central Annamites landscape in Southern Laos and Central Vietnam.

Myanmar currently has a minimum of 22 tigers after less than 10 percent of their habitat was surveyed. The potential tiger habitat in Myanmar is 49,000 sq. km. 

Why are tigers threatened?

  • Poaching to meet increasing demand for tiger body parts used in traditional medicine. Poaching of wild tigers is worsened by the increase in tiger farms in the region, especially in Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and China, which maintains the demand for tiger products from all sources (including the wild).
  • Habitat fragmentation from unsustainable infrastructure development. As roads and other projects separate forests into smaller isolated patches, this makes tigers more vulnerable to poaching.
  • Poaching of tiger prey wildlife to satisfy a growing commercial demand for wild meat in restaurants and for use as traditional medicines.

How is WWF protecting tigers in the Greater Mekong region?

The WWF Greater Mekong Programme Office is active in 5 out of the 13 tiger range states (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam). These countries contain the largest combined area of tiger habitat in the world.
  • Carrying out research and surveys to identify tiger habitat, tiger prey and tiger population numbers
  • Improving habitat conditions so that both tigers and their prey populations will naturally increase
  • Training protected area personnel and rangers to carry out surveys, and to effectively manage protected areas where tigers are found
  • Actively seeking the establishment of formal protection in areas where tigers are found but where they still lack effective protection
  • Engaging with local authorities and communities living in proximity to tiger areas so that people and tigers can coexist
  • Public awareness-raising across the Greater Mekong’s tiger range states about tigers and the threats they face

The global wild tiger population currently stands at 3,890, down from an estimated 5,000-7,000 during the last Year of the Tiger in 1998, but higher than the all-time low of 3,200.

However, given the chance—enough space, enough prey, enough protection—wild tiger populations can recover.
Tiger landscapes in the Greater Mekong


Our regional work contributes to WWF’s global targets for saving tigers:

  • To double the number of wild tigers by 2022
  • To ensure that tigers roam in at least 20% of their former range by 2020
  • To ensure that tiger conservation becomes political priority and leads to significant action by 2015
  • To eliminate trade in tiger parts by 2020

What WWF is doing for tigers in the region


Find out about the global WWF Tigers Alive Initiative

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