Discovered: New breeding population of endangered tiger

BANGKOK, March 29 (Reuters) - Images of Indochinese tigers and cubs captured on camera in Thailand's eastern jungle have confirmed the existence of the world's second breeding population of the critically endangered animals, wildlife conservationists said on Wednesday.

Poaching for the skin and body parts of tigers, used in traditional Chinese medicine, is a multi-million dollar business in Asia that has driven the animals to the brink of extinction in the wild.

Of about 3,900 tigers believed to be left in the wild globally, just about 350 belonged to the Indochinese species living in Thailand and Myanmar, figures from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) showed in 2011.

Images from 156 camera traps installed by Thai wildlife authorities along with Freeland, a group that fights wildlife trafficking, and Panthera, a global wild cat conservation group, documented at least six cubs from four females.

See more photos of the endangered tigers:

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Endangered Indochinese tigers
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Endangered Indochinese tigers
A Indochinese tiger cub (R) plays with an adult tiger as the tigers are presented to the media for the first time at their outdoor cage at Tierpark Friedrichsfelde Zoo in Berlin, April 3, 2012. The four cubs were born August 10, 2011. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (GERMANY - Tags: SOCIETY ANIMALS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Adult Indochinese tigers are presented to the media for the first time at their outdoor cage at Tierpark Friedrichsfelde Zoo in Berlin, April 3, 2012. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (GERMANY - Tags: SOCIETY ANIMALS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Two-month-old Indochinese tiger cubs are seen inside their cage at the Hanoi Zoo in Hanoi March 2, 2007. Four cubs of the second generation of Indochinese tiger were successfully bred in captivity, Hanoi Zoo deputy General Director Dang Gia Tung said on Friday. REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)
KANCHANABURI, THAILAND - JUNE 1: A sedative dart hangs from a tiger's shoulder as it walks in a cage at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple on June 1, 2016 in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand. Wildlife authorities in Thailand raided a Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi province where 137 tigers were kept, following accusations the monks were illegally breeding and trafficking endangered animals. Forty of the 137 tigers were rescued by Tuesday from the country's infamous 'Tiger Temple' despite opposition from the temple authorities. (Photo by Dario Pignatelli/Getty Images)
A tiger looks on before Thai wildlife officials scan the microchip implanted in his body at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province on April 24, 2015. Thai wildlife officials began a headcount of nearly 150 tigers kept by monks at a controversial temple which has become the centre of a dispute over the welfare of the animals. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
A tiger relaxs in the water on a hot summer day at Dusit Zoo, know as Khao Din in Bangkok, Thailand on April 22, 2015. Hot weather come early to Thailand in this year, which average nearly 40 degree celsius in most areas, reports said. (Photo by Wasawat Lukharang/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Indochinese tiger cubs play inside their cage at the Hanoi Zoo June 22, 2011. Their mother, Mi, gave birth to four cubs in the morning of April 2, 2011, becoming the first tiger at the Hanoi zoo to be born and bred in captivity. Mi was born on the same day eight years earlier, on April 2, 2003, to Lam Nhi (which mean "Child of Forest"), a tiger that was confiscated from wildlife traffickers in Vietnam's central province of Thua Thien Hue. REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM - Tags: ANIMALS IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A Indochinese tiger cub (R) plays with an adult tiger as the tigers are presented to the media for the first time at their outdoor cage at Tierpark Friedrichsfelde Zoo in Berlin, April 3, 2012. The four cubs were born August 10, 2011. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (GERMANY - Tags: SOCIETY ANIMALS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Two-month-old Indochinese tiger cubs are seen inside their cage at the Hanoi Zoo in Hanoi March 2, 2007. Four cubs of the second generation of Indochinese tiger were successfully bred in captivity, Hanoi Zoo deputy General Director Dang Gia Tung said on Friday. REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)
An Indochinese tiger, Mi, carries a cub at the Hanoi Zoo June 22, 2011. Mi gave birth to four cubs in the morning of April 2, 2011, becoming the first tiger at the Hanoi zoo to be born and bred in captivity. Mi was born on the same day eight years earlier, on April 2, 2003, to Lam Nhi (which mean "Child of Forest"), a tiger that was confiscated from wildlife traffickers in Vietnam's central province of Thua Thien Hue. REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM - Tags: ANIMALS)
An Indo-Chinese tiger eats its breakfast at the Hanoi Zoo November 26, 2004. The world's tiger population has plummeted by 95 percent from the start of the 20th century to as few as 5,000 now and is further threatened by the lucrative trade in their skins, officials told a forum in Hanoi on Friday. REUTERS/Kham Kham/CN
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Wildlife officials hailed the pictures as the first evidence of tigers breeding in Thailand's eastern region in more than 15 years, highlighting the success of authorities' patrol and protection efforts against illegal poaching and logging.

"It provides a little bit of hope that potentially, we no longer have all of our eggs in one basket," Eric Ash, a conservation project manager at Freeland, told Reuters.

"That really can only happen if tigers have effective, sufficient amount of prey and if they have sufficient protection."

Western Thailand was the site of the only previously known breeding population of Indochinese tigers. (Reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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