Cattle herds offer hope for tigers - WWF
Phnom Penh - Large herds of wild cattle in eastern Cambodia mean the area could be one of the best places in Asia for a recovery in tiger populations, conservation group WWF said on Monday.
There may be no more than five tigers living in the wild in the eastern plains areas it surveyed, the WWF said, but the population of banteng, a species of wild cattle, could provide a "sustainable source of prey".
However, the group warned that agricultural concessions and plans for large infrastructure projects were threatening efforts to protect the habitat - for both the tiger and its prey.
New research conducted by WWF and the government estimates there are between 2 700 and 5 700 banteng roaming Cambodia's eastern plains.
"For the tiger population to recover, one of the most important things needed is a sustainable source of prey, such as banteng," WWF said.
"The eastern plains of Cambodia has been identified as perhaps one of the best places in Asia for such a recovery given the condition and large size of the habitat, and investments in recent years into better law enforcement and management of protected areas appear to be paying dividends."
The research suggests that Cambodia has the world's largest population of banteng, whose global population is estimated at 5 900 - 11 000, as well as increasing numbers of wild pig and muntjac, WWF said.
"They are all very important prey animals for tigers, which have also suffered a massive decline across Cambodia and the rest of Asia in the last few decades," it said.
Since 1996, the banteng itself has been listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as globally endangered because of a dramatic decline in its numbers.
The WWF surveyed two protected areas which together cover 6 000km2.
"In recent years, the forests in the eastern plains, and across the rest of the country, have become increasingly at risk from large-scale land concessions," it warned.