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With tiger revival on agenda, experts to visit Cambodia

New Delhi
18 Sep 2017

Cambodia`s forest minister is also expected to move an official proposal seeking India`s cooperation in Cambodia`s national effort to reintroduce tigers in their forests

In an effort to revive Cambodia`s functionally extinct tiger population, a team of Indian officials, veteran forest officers and wildlife scientists will visit the country later this month to assess the viability of its forests for the introduction of Bengal tigers. During the team`s visit, Cambodia`s forest minister is also expected to move an official proposal seeking India`s cooperation in Cambodia`s national effort to reintroduce tigers in their forests.

Cambodia`s population of Indochinese tigers has become functionally extinct with no breeding population left, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had declared in April 2016. A week later, at the third Asian ministerial conference on tiger conservation, India had signalled its intent to share Bengal tigers with Cambodia. Cambodia is also seeking help from Thailand and Malaysia, home to critically endangered Indochinese tigers.

The team from India will consist of Assistant Inspector General of Forest, National Tiger Conservation Authority, Rajesh Gopal, former director, Project Tiger and Secretary General, Global Tiger Forum, wildlife scientists YV Jhala and K.Ramesh of Wildlife Institute of India and R.Sreenivasa Murthy, former field director, Panna Tiger Reserve. After a near wipeout of Panna`s tigers in 2009, Murthy had helmed India`s and the world`s only successful tiger reintroduction programme that involved translocation of tigers from Kanha and Bandhavgarh to Panna.

Explaining the plans of the visit, Gopal said these are still early days and the idea is to do a preliminary ground assessment of the forests to assess the potential for reintroduction.

"The Cambodian government and their forest department are keen on learning about our reintroduction project and also about our broad policies of tiger conservation," said Rajesh Gopal. During their visit, the Indian team is also slated to visit the 4,294 vast Mondulkiri protected forest, located in the Eastern Plains landscape of Mondulkiri province, Cambodia, that supports the last remaining tigers.

"Reintroduction is a lengthy process. It needs a study of their forest habitats, the climate, prey bases and most importantly the genetic relation and its suitability for breeding," added Gopal.