If you ever needed a reason to visit Asia, let it be to see tigers in the wild. While their populations dwindle, there are several populations in and around India. But what about further south and east? Are there tigers in Vietnam? And If they are, where are they?
The IUCN and other conservation bodies believe that there are at most 5 tigers in Vietnam. However, there is a high likelihood that wild tigers are extinct in Vietnam and can only be found in private facilities. There have been no photographs of wild tigers in Vietnam since 1999.
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Why Are There So Few Tigers In Vietnam?
Although there may be one or two wild tigers lurking in wild areas of Vietnam (some conservationists are optimistic about five animals), the population is considered below the “minimum viable population” size. I.e., there are too few members for the species to survive.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the trip to Vietnam to look for tigers and other amazing wildlife in the forested country.
Historically, Vietnam had a booming tiger population; however, due to anthropogenic influences, that population was decimated. Unfortunately, Vietnam is not alone, as Laos and Cambodia are in the same situation.
What Type Of Tigers Are In Vietnam?
If, on your travels, you’re fortunate enough to see a tiger in Vietnam, it will be an Indochinese tiger.
Here are some quick facts about these stunning cats:
- Common name: Indochinese tiger
- Scientific name: Panthera tigris corbetti
- Size: 8 to 9 feet long
- Weight: 220 to over 400 pounds
- Life expectancy: 10 to 15 years
Indochinese tigers are a subspecies similar in build and appearance to other tigers, with slight differences in color, skull shape, and size.
Indochinese tigers are smaller than Bengals, with shorter fur, narrower stripes, and darker colors. Their shorter coats help with the area’s heat, and the darker colors give them an advantage when camouflaging (making them all the more difficult to spot in the wild).
What Is The Historical Distribution Of Tigers In Vietnam?
The Indochinese tiger is indigenous to the tropical and subtropical forests of southeast Asia. These large cats were prevalent throughout Cambodia, Laos, China, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam.
What Is The Current Distribution Of Tigers In Vietnam?
In the wild, the only recognized viable populations (i.e., there are enough animals to breed and maintain a healthy population) in Myanmar and Thailand.
Scientists believe the two largest Indochinese tiger populations are in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex and the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex.
What Are The Habitat Preferences Of Tigers In Vietnam?
Throughout their range, Indochinese tigers occupy various forest habitats, including:
- Deciduous forests
- Evergreen forests
- Subtropical and tropical dry broadleaf forests
- Tropical rainforests
Where Could You Potentially See Tigers In Vietnam?
While traveling through Vietnam in search of these “ghosts,” you are more likely to see an Indochinese tiger in its preferred habitat. So when passing through an ideal spot, keep your eyes open.
The last photographed Indochinese tiger in Vietnam was in Pu Mat National Park in 1999, and there have been no official tiger-reported sightings since 2009.
Areas that may currently house the last few tigers in Vietnam are the Northern and Central Annamese Mountains, where small groups of tigers might persist.
However, according to Vietnam +, there were 364 tigers in captive facilities in Vietnam, a drastic increase from 97 in 2010.
These registered tigers are at non-commercial facilities for breeding. So while not in the wild, should the situation change and it becomes viable to release them, Vietnam has some animals.
The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens are captive facilities where you can view tigers in Vietnam.
What Is The Ecology Of Tigers In Vietnam?
These solitary hunters stalk prey in their forested habitats, coming together only for breeding. Indochinese tigers have larger home ranges (areas they roam in) and slightly smaller territories (areas they actively defend from other tigers), resulting in a sparse density of tigers in any area.
While spotting these large felines is challenging (due to their camouflage and probable absence from Vietnam), keeping an ear open for their various sounds is a wise plan. These tigers growl, “chuff,” grunt, hiss, and roar.
What Do Indochinese Tigers Eat?
Aside from the habitat, a good indication that you could (potentially) find tigers in a specific area is if the tiger’s prey source is close by.
Indochinese tigers are apex predators consuming a wide variety of prey species, including:
- Macaques (a type of primate)
- Muntjac (the “barking” deer)
- Sambar deer
- Serow (a goat or antelope-like animal)
- Wild boars
- Livestock (particularly cattle and goats)
Most tigers hunt at night and are ambush predators, sneaking up on their prey and then pouncing. They are the least active during the middle of the day (not unlike a house cat), so if you’re planning on taking a trip to find one, the early evening would be the best time.
Are They Dangerous To Humans?
Tigers are renowned “man-killers,” and encountering one in the wild should be conducted safely. Although the chances of finding one in Vietnam are slim, tourists (and locals) should always practice caution when in the forest.
What Are The Conservation Issues For Tigers In Vietnam?
Without conservation efforts, these tigers will continue to decline without any hope of reintroduction. However, the Vietnamese government is committed to improving wild tiger populations. But until they address the threats, there won’t be any positive changes.
Are There Threats To Tigers In Vietnam?
Tigers, like most other animals under constant anthropogenic threats, receive the most pressure and threat to their survival from the “unholy trinity,” namely poaching, habitat loss, and climate change.
According to the IUCN, global populations of the Indochinese tiger are “endangered.”
Is Poaching A Threat To Tigers In Vietnam?
One of the worst scourges in the world today, illegal hunting is the most direct reason for the decline of all tiger species. Poachers kill tigers for their various body parts for medicinal purposes, of which China is usually a prominent end user.
How Much Of A Threat Is Habitat Loss To Tigers In Vietnam?
Aside from directly hunting tigers, their population is threatened due to human activities and expansion into areas where the tigers live. This human expansion increases pressure on tigers to find food, mates, and safe places to live, often resulting in human-animal conflict situations.
Unfortunately, human needs are almost always prioritized above animals, as humans need land for farming and housing, which pushes tigers further over the “edge.”
What Impact Does Climate Change Have On Tigers In Vietnam?
No threat list is complete without climate change. Unseasonal weather, unexpected fluctuations, weather extremes, and unpredictable rains hamper the environment’s equilibrium, reduce food sources, and put tigers at risk of exposure (floods and fires).
If these and other threats are left unaddressed, tigers will go extinct.
Are There Conservation Programs For Tigers In Vietnam?
The numerous tiger farms and breeding facilities around Vietnam are a testament to the conservation efforts.
Unfortunately, managing these farms and operations is something to be wanting, with poor living conditions and a lack of management leading to different subspecies inbreeding, and losing genetic diversity.
However, there are some success stories. In 2015, Vietnam bred three white Bengal tiger cubs at the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
How Does Tourism Impact Tiger Populations In Vietnam?
Tourism, particularly to national parks and (good) breeding facilities, is critical in producing enough revenue to convince the government that conserving these tigers is of the utmost importance.
Without the international community and the revenue eco-tourism brings into a country, conservation efforts are quickly substituted for agriculture and development.