Within the last 100 years, tigers have rapidly declined in number and distribution across their range. Today they remain only in small isolated and fragmented patches of forest, with fewer than 3,500 animals now live in the wild and occupying only 7% of their historical range across Asia.
In Lao PDR, tigers once occurred in most forested areas across the country, but today they have disappeared from most places, with recent confirmation only by camera trap photos (such as the one above) and genetic analysis of scat from one location in the country, the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park. 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. 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 large cats 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 NP, 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 national park 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.
WCS seeks to counter wildlife trade in tigers and other animals through its efforts in wildlife health surveillance and wildlife trade programs in partnership with the Lao government to combat wildlife trafficking by increasing effectiveness of law enforcement responses in the country.