Government officials have approved a plan to reintroduce tigers to Cambodia's Eastern Plains by 2022. The plan would make Cambodia the first country to regain a tiger population after functional extinction. The World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) Cambodia headquarters revealed on Wednesday that the Cambodia Tiger Action Plan - part of a global plan to try to double the number of wild tigers - was approved on March 23.
The initiative's execution is dependent on a number of factors, such as illegal logging and habitat loss, sufficient prey numbers and funding. Tigers have been considered functionally extinct in Cambodia since the last sighting in 2007. A tiger was pictured on a camera trap in the Mondolkiri Protected Forest area in the east of the country. In a press conference on Wednesday, WWF country director Chhith Sam Ath acknowledged the obstacles that must be overcome for the plan to be successful. "One of the major concerns is law enforcement, which needs to be strengthened in those areas first, as well as the wildlife trade and illegal logging," he said. "We need to ensure that there is zero poaching and habitat loss. We need a world-class protected area where there is no poaching, hunting, or forest logging."
Sam Ath said a WWF survey of people living in the region found that 80 percent were happy with the idea of reintroduction, and that one tiger is capable of bringing in $15 million in ecotourism revenue. A delegation is set to travel to India next week to attend a ministerial meeting on the reintroduction of tigers, and the government expects to finalize a so-called "sourcing agreement" with the Indian authorities next year for the procurement of some of the animals.