Phet: a victim of the human jungle
This is Phet. She was at the centre of an international effort to bring her back to health and then provide her with a large natural habitat enclosure to save her from going into a zoo.
She was the sole survivor of three Indo-Chinese tiger cubs taken by a hunter in north-west Laos, 50 miles from the world heritage town of Luang Prabang.
Now, because she was taken at such a young age, there is no possibility of training her for a return to the wild.
But the care and attention has paid off. She has grown into a beautiful adult tiger and she lives in her own forested enclosure - a success story for her, the Lao authorities and Britain's Care for the Wild International.
Her story is remarkable because the Laotian authorities managed to save her from certain death at the hands of Chinese who regard tiger parts as medicinal.
And because her needs have been met by CWI, which has gone on to help local people save other tigers with the help of money donated by people from the UK and other countries.
Phet the name means 'diamond' and her brothers were four days old when they were taken.
The hunter sold them for about US$107 (£71), very little in the US or Britain but in Laos, one of the poorest countries in the world, a sizeable amount: something approaching six months' income for a rural worker.
The cubs were then sold on four times and the final person in the chain was caught just hours before he was due to meet a Chinese trader on the border between Laos and China.
The man was arrested and, during questioning, named all the other people involved. They were all arrested and paid fines to the Luang Prabang provincial government.
The tigers weakened by the stress of being taken from their mother and their natural habitat, being handled, and not being fed properly were taken to the Livestock and Fisheries office in Luang Prabang and the international effort to help them began.
Vets visiting the area heard about them and went to help; and then Care for the Wild International's chairman, Bill Jordan, gave advice drawn from his extensive knowledge and experience of wild animals.
The skill and dedication of local and international specialists saved Phet but the two male cubs died.
"We visited her and gave further advice on her welfare," said Helen Leavesley, the CWI scientific officer. "We have built her a temporary enclosure but we need to build her a permanent home. She will never be able to go back to the wild."
The permanent enclosure was planned at one of the famous sites in Luang Prabang, Mount Phousi, which is opposite the Royal Palace Museum in the historic part of the town.
But eventually she was given a larger encloser at Kuang Si Falls, where the tree cover and a natural stream help her to lead as natural a life as possible - and where she can be visited by Lao people and tourists, who help pay for her food and vets care with small donations.
"Her diet includes sufficient meat, bones and calcium supplements as well as an essential 'starve day'," added Helen. "Her health significantly improved as she was nursed back to health and the only real sign of her former ill health is that her back legs remain a little crooked."
Julia Robinson, spokeswoman for CWI, added: "Phet is now thriving. She is bright, healthy and playful. But she needs our help because the only alternative is a small sterile zoo enclosure.
"She should not have to live behind bars because of an animal trader's greed."
Photograph by courtesy of Care for the Wild International
|Wild animals in Laos|