Tiger poachers sentenced in Thailand

March 7, 2012 at 8:10 PM

BANGKOK, March 7 (UPI) -- Two tiger poachers in Thailand have received up to five years in prison, the most severe punishments for wildlife poaching ever given in the country.

After a lengthy trial the two poachers, arrested last July, were found guilty on Feb. 19, the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society reported Wednesday.

One poacher, a Thai Hmong, was given a five-year sentence while the second, a Vietnamese citizen, was given a four-year sentence, it said.

The case was widely reported after a cellphone confiscated by authorities contained photos of a dead tiger whose striping pattern matched an animal being tracked by the society's conservationists in Thailand's Western Forest Complex.

Tiger stripes are unique to individual animals and serve as a visual "fingerprint," and although the poachers alleged the tiger was shot in neighboring Myanmar, the matched striping pattern proved otherwise.

"The jail sentences show that Thailand is serious about stopping poaching of its wildlife," Joe Walston, society executive director for Asia programs, said. "WCS commends the dedicated park guards and enforcement personnel who made this conviction a reality."

Thailand serves as a training ground for park guards from other Asian countries seeking to protect their own resources, and the society collaborates with the Thai government in the training of enforcement staff from China, Nepal, India, Myanmar, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia.

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