(LiveScience) Two endangered tiger cubs and their mother have been caught on film in Thailand near the site of a proposed hydroelectric dam.
The black-and-white footage, taken in May, shows a mother tiger investigating a camera trap near the Mae Wong River. After a moment, her two cubs bound through the woods after her.
The tigers are three of the fewer than 300 wild Indochinese tigers left in Thailand, according to the WWF, which released the video of the cubs and mama tiger, along with the Thai Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
Panthera tigris corbetti is an endangered subspecies of tiger found only in southeast Asia. Conservation agencies estimate that there are fewer than 1,500 in the wild today, with Thailand hosting a few hundred. According to the advocacy group Tigers in Crisis, one Indochinese tiger is lost to poachers each week, on average. The big cats are also threatened by shrinking habitats and loss of prey. [See Tiger Cubs Video]
Now, environmental groups are crying out against a proposed $400 million dam project on the Mae Wong River. The dam would inundate more than 5,000 acres (2,023 hectares) of land in Mae Wong National Park. The dam, and others planned along with it, would also cut the region's fish supply by 16 percent, according to a study released Monday (Aug. 27) by WWF and the Australian National University. That food supply would have to be replaced by agriculture, according to the report published in the journal Global Environmental Change.
The WWF and other conservation agencies worry that the dam project would also bring new roads into tigers' forest habitat. Those roads, in turn, may bring more poachers into the region.
"The good news is that the footage tells us our tiger conservation efforts are on the right track and that this area is succeeding in helping wild tigers reproduce," Rebecca Ng of WWF's Greater Mekong program said in a statement. "If the dam is built, it will literally wash away years of conservation efforts and risks the future of tigers in Thailand."
The Thai government says that the project will help ease problems of drought and flooding in the region, according to the Bangkok Post. Environmental groups are taking the issue to court, filing a complaint with the country's Central Administrative Court alleging that the prime minister and cabinet violated the constitution by approving the Mae Wong dam before environmental impact studies were completed.
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