Tiger Poachers Get Stiff Sentences

Two men received substantial prison sentences after being convicting of poaching in Thailand earlier this year.

One convicted tiger poacher, a Vietnamese citizen, received four years in prison; the other,  a Thai national, received five—the most severe punishment for wildlife poaching ever given in Thailand.

The men had been convicted in Thai court on February 19. They were arrested last July, after officials said they were fleeing patrols in a protected area. Police said their belongings contained illegal animal parts as well as snares, firearms, and other equipment commonly used by poachers.

Park rangers surround the two convicted poachers (pointing) with the initial seize of wildlife parts, weapons, and other equipment. Photo courtesy of the WCS Thailand Foundation.


But the critical piece of evidence was a cell phone containing photos of the two men posing by a dead tiger. The men claimed the tiger was shot in an unprotected area in Myanmar, but later court analysis showed that the stripe pattern was identical to that of an animal being tracked by Wildlife Conservation Society personnel in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex.

A cell phone image of one of the poachers posing with the dead tiger that led to their conviction. Photo courtesy of the WCS Thailand Program.


Tiger stripes form unique patterns and—like human fingerprints and whale flukes—can be used to identify individuals.


The tiger from the cell phone images was identified as the same tiger captured by a camera trap image by WCS the year before, adding to the evidence against the poachers.


Tigers are threatened by habitat loss and by hunting; the population of tigers in the wild has declined from an estimated 100,000 in 1920 to under 3,500 today. (Approximately 250 of those live in Thailand.)

Logging, development, and the decline of their traditional prey have reduced their range to scattered pockets across South and East Asia; today they occupy less than 10% of their former range. Hunters target them for pelts, bones, and other body parts, many of which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Although the trade is banned in most countries and by international law, a black market trade fueled by poachers remains.

More About Tigers from Nat Geo News Watch:

Tiger Parts Seized in Raid on Malaysia Restaurant

Can 2,000 Tigers Find Sanctuary in Thailand? 

Rare Tigers Raised in Africa to be “Rewilded” in China

Can a Thousand Breeding Females Stave Off Tiger Extinction in the Wild?

Last Stand for Wild Tigers?