Within the last 100 years, tigers have rapidly declined in numbers and distribution across their range. Less than 3,500 animals now live in the wild and occupy only 7% of their historical range across Asia. Tigers remain today in small isolated and fragmented patches of forest across their original home range. In Lao PDR, tigers once occurred in most forested areas across the country, but today they have disappeared from most places of the country, with having only been confirmed recently by camera trap photos and genetic analysis of scats from one location in the country, the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area. The persistence of tigers in other parts of the country is provisional from reports of animal signs, but the certainty of tiger presence remains unknown. Despite the continuing decline in tiger numbers, the country still contains extensive habitat in several tiger conservation landscapes that could potentially harbor abundant prey populations, which could support viable tiger populations. The current population of tigers in Lao PDR, although unknown, is on the verge of extirpation.
The threats to tigers include the direct killing of tigers for their body parts which are traded at very high prices on the regional and international black market, retribution killing by angry farmers who lose their livestock to predators, unsustainable over-harvesting of tiger prey by humans for local consumption and illegal trade, and loss of habitat and fragmentation due to agricultural expansion and development of roads and villages.
WCS assisted the Government of Lao PDR to create the National Tiger Action Plan for Lao PDR 2010-2020 and has been supporting the government to manage the main site with a known tiger population, Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA, since 2003. Conservation activities have included training and employing over 150 staff, including district and provincial foresters and agricultural officers, military officers, villagers, and national biologists, to work in the NPA in a management structure that follows recommended Southeast Asian Standards for Protected Areas. Tiger conservation activities supported by WCS have included law enforcement, community outreach, wildlife research and monitoring, and ecotourism.