A plan to repopulate the dry forests of Cambodia with tigers after they have been declared 'functionally extinct' in the country has been revealed in a joint statement released by the Government of Cambodia, WWF and the Wildlife Alliance.

There are no breeding populations of tigers anymore. The last big cat spotted in Cambodia was in 2007 by a camera trap — a hidden camera that is triggered remotely by associated movement of animals. At one point in time, there were actually about 20 to 50 tigers prowling about the Eastern Plains Landscape of Northeast Cambodia.

This rapid decline in numbers is largely owed to the extensive rate of illegal poaching of tigers as well as their prey such as Banteng, Sambar Deer and Muntjac Deer. Not to forget the weak law enforcement practices.

In order to revive the tiger population, the Government has unveiled a plan wherein tigers from other countries will be rehabilitated into the Mondulkiri protected forest in Eastern Cambodia. The Government intends to introduce around two male species and five female species to begin the breeding process with. Similar practices are intended to be carried out in other countries like India, Malaysia and Thailand.

The total cost of the project has been estimated to be somewhere between $20 million and $50 million. The tigers are expected to be brought into the country by 2017, provided that all the related issues such as provision of a safe habitat, stringent no-poaching laws, increasing the number of prey to a level that can support the tigers' sustenance, reduced deforestation, etc are taken care of effectively.

According to WWF, tigers have been classified as nearly extinct species worldwide with approximately 3,200 tigers existing in a total of 13 countries that includes India, Nepal, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Russia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam.

In 2012, all these countries had joined their hands together for the launch of a project called Tx2, which aims at doubling the number of tigers in their respective countries by 2022. 2022 is interestingly the next Chinese year of the tiger.

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