A new study by the Wildlife Research Conservation Unit found that tigers are extinct in Laos. A five-year survey of the biodiversity-rich Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area found no evidence of these felines.
The same research found, however, evidence of deadly traps designed to kill the animals that trip over them. “Traps are simple to manufacture. One person can place hundreds or even thousands of them, which kill indiscriminately and are inhuman to any animal that is caught, ”explained zoologist and lead author of the study, Akchousanh Rasphone.
Traps are a big problem in Laos and Southeast Asia. Tigers are killed for their flesh, but most of all for their valuable skin. The latest estimate of the population of these animals, released in April 2016, showed that there were only two wild tigers in Laos.
In the first year of this research, scientists observed these animals but have never been seen until today. The scientific article was published at Global Ecology and Conservation.
The deaths of these animals are in line with the slow decline of the Indochina tiger (Panthera tigris tigris). Currently, the only healthy populations live in Thailand, which has about 189 of these animals in the wild. There are still 7 left in China, less than 5 in Vietnam and perhaps some in Myanmar.
Still, this is not necessarily the end of tigers in Laos. Experts believe that if the government acts, it can recover the wild population by controlling the trap crisis.
In addition, there are hundreds captive tigers in the country. These genetically modified breeds live in illegal and inhuman fields, where they are bred only for slaughter.
Despite the problem, news of the extinction of wild tigers seemed to spark very little discussion about conservation in Laos. "The only thing that worries the government is that the study makes the country look bad instead of thinking about how not to repeat the same mistakes again for the remaining species," Rasphone said.
"The message of this study needs to be taken as a lesson to other countries in the region, as well as being interpreted locally for the conservation of the remaining populations of species important to Laos," the researcher concluded.