The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced that two tiger poachers arrested last July in Thailand have received up to five years in prison.
After a lengthy trial, the two poachers were found guilty on February 19, 2012 and given stiff jail sentences. One poacher, a Thai Hmong was given a five-year sentence, while the second, a Vietnamese citizen, was given a four-year sentence. These are the most severe punishments for wildlife poaching ever given in Thailand.
The case gained international attention last year when a cell phone confiscated by authorities contained photos of a dead tiger whose striping pattern matched an animal being tracked by WCS conservationists in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex.
Tiger stripes are unique to individual animals and serve as a visual thumbprint. The poachers had alleged the tiger was shot in neighboring Myanmar, but the matched striping pattern proved otherwise.
The sentences are the latest achievement of an ongoing operation known as the SMART patrol, a systematic, evidence-based adaptive management program designed to increase monitoring and enforcement in areas important to conservation.
“The jail sentences show that Thailand is serious about stopping poaching of its wildlife,” said Joe Walston, WCS Executive Director for Asia Programs. “WCS commends the dedicated park guards and enforcement personnel who made this conviction a reality.”
Thailand serves as a training ground for guards from other Asian countries seeking to protect their own resources. WCS collaborates with the Thailand government in the training of enforcement staff from China, Nepal, India, Myanmar, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Last December, WCS released incredible camera trap video footage of a rich gallery of wildlife from the forests of Thailand confirming that anti-poaching efforts in that country are paying off.
WCS work in Thailand is supported by the Multinational Species Conservation Funds of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of State, Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Save the Tiger Fund, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, The Cattail Fund, and other private donors.