While little is known about this subspecies of wild tiger, they perhaps offer one of the greatest hopes for the survival of wild tigers everywhere. Centered in Thailand, this subspecies (technical name Panthera tigris corbetti), can also be found in Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, and southern China. Though estimates are based almost exclusively on secondary evidence such as paw prints and remnants from their kills, it is believed that as many as 1000 to 1500 members Indo-Chinese tigers survive in the wild. (There are about 60 living in zoos throughout Asia and the USA.)
There are two primary reasons why so little is known about the Indo-Chinese
tiger. First, the areas in which these tigers live include extremely
remote forests and terrain that is not hospital to researchers. In addition,
several of the governments in charge of these territories are either
unwilling or unable to allow foreign nationals into their countries
to conduct detailed studies. Even so, such pioneering felid biologists
as Dr. Alan Rabinowitz of the Wildlife Conservation Society have managed
to assemble a modicum of crucially important data regarding this subspecies.
Aside from the sheer quantity of surviving wild members of this subspecies,
the Indo-Chinese tiger has special prominence because it is thought
by some scientists to be the most closely related animal to the original
ancestors of all tigers. (The South China tiger is also thought by some
to hold this distinction.) These animals, therefore, may posses genetic
components that are especially important and unique with respect to
the viability of any and all surviving tigers.
Unfortunately, much of the sparse information that is known about this
subspecies comprises information about threats to its long-term survival.
Specifically, human encroachment into formerly pristine tiger habitat
is severe. In certain countries such as Vietnam, this has involves the
wholesale destruction of habitat as a consequence of war.
Poaching is also a particularly threatening problem for the Indo-Chinese
tiger, promoted to a large extent by the regressive economic situations
in several of the countries where wild Indo-Chinese tigers roam. The
animals simply offer too large and tempting an incentive on the black
market for villagers who might otherwise be able to ignore the animals
presence or at least tolerate its cohabitation. Those same economic
forces often lead both individuals and governments to plunder the natural
resources associated with Indo-Chinese tiger habitat, including forests,
water supplies, and the prey on which the tigers feed.
The one bright spot with respect to these threats is Malaysia, where
efforts to reduce poaching and smuggling have been exceptionally effective.
In addition, the relative political and economic stability in Malaysia
has produced an atmosphere more conducive to the cohabitation of tigers
Bengal, Siberian, Caspian,