Eye Of The TigerDocumentary | 2001 | ABC
Over the past 100 years, 95% of tigers have been wiped off the face of the earth. The loss of tiger habitat has been just as dramatic. History has proven that poachers and big cats cannot share hunting grounds and both survive.
Scientist Tony Lynam from Bronx Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Society, has come to Khao Yai National Park, central Thailand, to work out exactly how many tigers are left. Thailand is the heart of the Indochinese tiger’s habitat – but of the world’s remaining 5,000 wild tigers, possibly less than 300 remain. Tony sets cameras in isolated areas of forest and waits for tigers to reveal themselves. After three years, he has evidence of people, elephants, deer, wild-dogs, macaques, leopards and a single, large, male tiger. He has also found the prints of one smaller tiger. But with evidence of only two living tigers he does not lose heart. This is the incentive to work harder and faster at creating sanctuaries for whatever remains of wild tigers.
Tony believes the only way to do this is to get people out of the forest. In Khao Yai there are around 500 poachers working daily in the jungle. Thousands more rely on the riches which these poachers extract from the park. Many of these villagers once owned the land which was seized to create the park. They were never compensated for the loss of their land and have no alternative means of survival. Meanwhile, some of the world’s last Indochinese tigers exist in such low numbers they appear to have stopped reproducing. Kuman Prachobchan feeds his three children by poaching. He, and all his neighbours, have no education beyond their expert understanding of the forest. They take bag loads of the exquisitely scented ‘aloewood’ which sells for $900US a kilo. They also set snares and hunt to feed themselves as they work. The greatest and rarest prize for all is a tiger – worth its equivalent weight in cocaine.
Undercover agent and environmentalist, Steve Galster, is closing in on Kuman and his Bangkok dealers. There is no doubt that for both the tiger and the people of Khao Yai National Park, major changes are about to happen. For Kuman and his family, saving the tiger could be disastrous. Eye of the Tiger tells the story of modern conservation challenging ancient traditions. It explores the complexities involved in preserving a magnificent cat and the dwindling forest on which it relies. From the dense forests of Khao Yai to the bustling streets of Bangkok, we meet the people who all have an interest in the tiger. And watch how the people who most threaten the tiger, can become their most important defenders.