PROTECTION of tigers and their habitat in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, a World Heritage site in the Western Forest Complex, will be stepped up with the strengthening of “smart” patrols and promotion of incentive and education-based community pa
The new and innovative approach has been made possible by Bt240 million in new funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
The work will be carried out under a new five-year project, Strengthening Capacity and Incentives for Wildlife Conservation in the Western Forest Complex, launched yesterday at Huai Kha Khaeng to coincide with Global Tiger Day.
It will be managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Thanya Netithammakul, chief of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Depart-|ment, said at the opening.
‘Smart’ ranger patrols
Huai Kha Khaeng was the first sanctuary in the country to utilise “smart” patrolling, which involves the use of high technology, systematic patrols and data collection to beef up site protection. It was introduced there over 10 years ago.
Research on tigers in the area revealed a strong correlation between the effectiveness of “smart” patrols and an increase in the number of the tigers in the complex from 50 previously to 80-100, nearly half of the country’s total in the wild.
Thanya said the project not only helped strengthen the ongoing patrol work, it also gave importance to community cooperation in the process. The chief said a collaboration between the department and the private sector would explore an innovative management approach to help generate incentives such as jointly managed eco-tourism for communities or corporate-based fundraising to reduce threats to the complex and wildlife.
Thanya said he had also placed hope in his subordinates finding ways to work with communities to do better conservation work.
The newly set up Pracha Rat Pithak Pa Institute, which trains locals in forest protection and boasts networks among them, was seen a positive development.
“Working with communities is very important. Our work would not be effective without their participation,” Thanya said.
“The challenge is, how we can get [locals’] cooperation and |participation in our work while |their livelihoods improve?”
Luc Stevens, the UN’s resident coordinator and UNDP resident |representative in Thailand, said the international body supported the project because its approach was not only about habitat protection, but also featured benefits to be shared with communities.
He said the organisation would support the department and coordinate with other organisations so the conservation effort met an international standard.
Stevens hoped the work would set an example for Thailand’s neighbouring countries.
Senior forest officers working |at the site said the project’s work components and objectives were good and innovative.
The Khao Nang Ram Wildlife Research Station, for instance, |will receive increased technical |support and new equipment that will help it expand its tiger research area to all key sanctuaries in the complex.