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Natural splendor in the East

Friday, July 21, 2017 posted by Bruce 2:06 PM

THIS POST IS THE FIFTH IN A SERIES OF WILDLIFE STORIES THAT WERE PUBLISHED IN THE BANGKOK POST. Test and photos by © L.Bruce Kekule

Thailand’s largest remaining tract of lowland evergreen rainforest

A male Siamese crocodile in Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary, Eastern Thailand…!

During mid-morning at a secluded murky stream deep in the Eastern evergreen rainforest, a single reptile glides effortlessly through the water to a favorite basking spot. Lying on the bank some three meters long, this freshwater Siamese crocodile warms-up in the bright sunlight. Judging from the many photographs taken of this individual, it is a mature animal. It is thought to be male as no egg nests have ever been found here. Actual age is not known, but it has been here for quite sometime. The habitat consists of several connecting deep pools with abundant fish stocks. The crocodile occasionally takes small mammals and birds. It is a lucky but lonely survivor.

A pair of Lessor whistling ducks showing off on a floating piece of wood…!

Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary is home to probably the last truly wild Siamese crocodile in eastern Thailand. There are just a few surviving in nearby Cambodia but their future is threatened by the construction of hydroelectric dams. Since Siamese crocs can live for 60-70 years, it is hoped this individual will be in Khao Ang Rue Nai for some time to come.

Kitti Kreetiyutanont, a forest official working in the sanctuary years back, recorded the first sighting of this individual in 1987 by photograph. The croc still survives to this day, and is a tribute to the tenacity and longevity of the species. However, it is a case in point where humans are to blame for the disappearance of these remarkable creatures, from the lowlands all the way up into deep forest; by encroachment, poaching and logging that went on for decades.

Bull elephant on the move…!

Some 230 million years ago judging from fossil evidence, the first crocodilians evolved from the Archosaur. Crocodiles have outlived the dinosaur but here in Thailand, the demise of the wild species is close at hand. In the past, crocodiles were found in just about every main river system throughout the Kingdom. Modernization has brought these mystical creatures to the brink of extinction. They were mainly captured to stock crocodile farms, and were also killed by the people who mostly feared these shy reptiles. With no laws in place at the time to protect them, extinction was imminent.

Banteng herd moving to a waterhole in Khao Ang Rue Nai…!

However, a reintroduction program could be implemented here, and with increased protection, could work to save the remarkable Siamese crocodile from extinction in the wild. There are several other sites that can also be used for reintroduction such as Yot Dom National Park in Ubol Ratchathani province, and Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary in Chaiyaphum province where crocs were once common. Over in the west of Thailand in Kaeng Krachan Natonal Park, one female is found in the Phetchaburi There are thousands upon thousands of crocodiles in farms, mostly by crossbreeding and hybridization. A wild population is the only option. A few of the crocodile farms still have

Banteng herd at the waterhole…!

Siamese crocodiles taken from the wild and could easily start a program to save the species. There has been one attempt at a national park to release crocodiles but it apparently was abandoned. Also, several Siamese crocodile have mysteriously showed up at Khao Yai and Thung Salang Luang national parks and believed to have been released clandestinely. These crocodiles should be captured and DNA checked to see if they are truly wild crocs.

Banteng cow with a lame right rear leg…!

Khao Ang Rue Nai is situated in the provinces of Chanthaburi, Prachin Buri, Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong. The sanctuary headquarters is located about three hours drive from Bangkok and was established in 1977 by Royal Decree. The protected area consists mainly (80 percent) of dry-evergreen forest with moist and hill evergreen, dry dipterocarp and mixed-deciduous forests interspersed with many streams, and are eastern Thailand’s largest remaining tract of lowland evergreen rainforest in the country. An annual rainfall of some 3,000 to 4,000 millimeters (118-160 inches) has been recorded.

Mother elephant and her young infant…!

The sanctuary is 1030 sq. km (398 sq.miles) in area and is part of the Prachinburi floodplain. It is the largest protected area of the Eastern Forest Complex, which includes four national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries: included are Khao Chamao – Khao Wong, Khao Khitchakut, Namtok Phlio and Khlong Kaeo national parks, and Khao Soi Dao, Khlong Khrua Wai Chaloem Phrakiat and Khao Ang Rue Nai wildlife sanctuaries. Unfortunately, these protected areas are mere islands in a sea of humanity.

Red jungle fowl (Eastern sub-species) breeding pair…!

In the old days, the Eastern Forest Complex was known as the Phanom Sarakham forest, and was one of the richest forests in Thailand famed for its abundant flora and fauna covering an area of about 8,000 square kilometers. Just a short 50 years ago, this dense, lush and vast jungle was home to large herds of elephant, gaur and banteng. Tigers and Asian wild dogs were common as were most of the smaller mammals like sambar, serow, wild pig, and muntjac (barking deer). Hornbills and gibbons, indicator species of an intact forest, thrived. But that quickly shrank as the human population expanded in causing irreversible damage to the ecosystems.

A Variable squirrel early one morning in the sanctuary…!

Due to its close proximity to Bangkok and other cities, many city hunters entered this forest at night spotlighting, either on foot or by jeep. This decimated the wildlife as everything was taken without regard for species, sex or age. The most damaging was the eight 30-year logging concessions carried out by logging companies that cut many roads into the forest. This alone-allowed easy access to virgin forest and it was not long before most everything vanished. In the meantime, this wilderness was also completely surrounded by agricultural land, which also took its toll.

Crab-eating macaque eating ‘mama’ dried noodles found in a trash can…!

Fortunately, and before it was too late; enough forest was saved so that the mammals and others were able to survive to the present. Although populations of the large herbivores have declined, they can be still be seen at various sites within the sanctuary. Unfortunately, the tiger has disappeared but a few Asian wild dogs still roam the interior and are at the top of the food chain.

Little grebe foraging for food in the reservoir…!

In 1967 when the Vietnam War was in full swing, the government cut many new roads through the forests in eastern Thailand supposedly to facilitate movement of US personnel and equipment from Utapao Airbase to other airfields in the Northeast. At the end of the Cambodian civil war in 1986, the Thai Army made one such road through the top half of Khao Ang Rue Nai. The impact of the road on this forest and the animals has been devastating and many creatures have been killed or maimed by vehicles on this thoroughfare.

The research unit stationed at Khao Ang Rue Nai on road-kill, deer and bovid population, elephant management and jungle fowl has carried out much research. Most accidents happened from 6pm to 6am. After much publicity, the road is now closed from 9pm to 5pm everyday and road-kill has dropped 70-80 percent. This is a plus for conservation where like-minded people have taken action to help prevent further carnage of wild animals.

Lessor whistling ducks…!

A total of 132 mammal, 395 bird, 32 amphibian and 107 reptile species have been recorded. Thousands of plant and insect species are found. Birds such as the black-and-red broadbill and the Siamese Fireback thrive. The rare woolly-necked stork and lesser adjutant once lived in these forests but have not been seen for sometime and are presumed extinct locally.

Oriental darter drying out its wings…!

Rare water birds like the Oriental dater and great cormorant migrate here and stay for several months at a reservoir built near the headquarters. This water source was created for the elephants during the dry season hoping to help eliminate human-elephant conflict. The marauding giants in search of food and water have killed and hurt many people. There are also recent reports of foraging gaur attacking farmers outside the sanctuary by mostly young bulls kicked out of the herd.

Oriental darter resting on a tree stump…!

The dangers facing Khao Ang Rue Nai are now severe as poachers and farmers snare indiscriminately. Cheap and simple rope snares have killed many elephants, gaur and banteng plus many other mammals. The villagers say they are protecting their crops. But many areas are in close proximity to the forest and interaction between wild beast and humans is a serious problem for the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, who are constantly under pressure from these conflicts. More personnel and protective management plus a bigger budget are needed to protect these forests.

Great cormorant and little cormorant…!

Great cormorant…!

Little cormorant…!

But it must also be understood by the general public that wildlife sanctuaries are not open to the general public and have been set aside for species conservation, protection and bio-diversity research. Unlike national parks, recreation is not encouraged although it does occur, especially at waterfalls and viewpoints. Needless to say, the future of all conservation areas in the Kingdom is in the balance, and only increased protection, conservation awareness and education are the keys to sustain Thailand’s wonderful natural heritage.

Sunrize at the resevoir in Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary…!

Notes from the field:

For capturing images of such elusive creatures like crocodiles and elephants, infrared camera-traps are a very productive alternative to endless days of sitting in a hot photo-blind. Crocodiles are creatures of habit, so I set a camera-trap at its favorite basking spot by Klong Takrow. The croc was caught on film many times during a two-week session. One frame shown below was taken in early morning light. It seems as if the crocodile is smiling, and saying, “I’m right here”. I was elated to get such a lucky shot.

Siamese crocodile camera-trapped at Klong Takrow deep in the sanctuary…!

Khao Ang Rue Nai is currently home to about 130 wild elephants. The road transects the northern part straight through old elephant habitat. The narrow road was widened and resurfaced allowing faster speed. In 2002, a man and woman in a pickup truck barreling through the sanctuary at high speed did not see the elephants on the road until it was too late. The truck crashed head-on into a 5-year-old tusker. The truck’s driver was killed on impact but the woman survived. The young elephant died shortly after.

This unfortunate little tusker was killed on the road two-weeks after this camera trap shot at a waterhole in the interior…!

A  tusker camera trapped at a waterhole in the sanctuary…this huge bull has killed a few poachers and villagers…!

The ironic circumstances of this accident – ancient animal and modern machine – weighed heavy in my heart. I had set camera-traps near the crocodile pond in the sanctuary a couple of weeks before. When the film was retrieved and processed, I was elated that a herd of elephants had triggered one of the cameras producing several frames. One frame showed an inquisitive little tusker looking straight at the camera. My elation quickly subsided a few days after the terrible news on TV and newspaper reports that a small tusker had been killed in the sanctuary. My worst fears were confirmed after consultation with Royal Forest Department officials and comparing photographs. A scar on the dead calf’s forehead proved it to be the same animal that I had ‘camera-trapped’.

Such accidents are a terrible blow to the conservation of Thai elephants, because tuskers are particularly vulnerable, being subject to hunting for their ivory. This young tusker was not the first and probably not the last elephant killed by reckless driving on this road. However, the Royal Thai Army and the Department of National Parks should be commended for taking the initiative by partially closing the road at night.

It is hoped that one day the time will be extended from 6pm to 6am to increase the animal’s chances for survival. This is the logical step and humans using this road would have to adjust to the new times for the sake of saving the wildlife.

Published in the Bangkok Post on May 25, 2009 in OUTLOOK – Nature section…’THE WILD SIDE’….!

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The River Runs Wild…!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 posted by Bruce 10:38 AM

THIS POST IS THE SECOND IN A SERIES OF WILDLIFE STORIES THAT WERE PUBLISHED IN THE BANGKOK POST. IT IS ABOUT THE FIRST EDITION OF MY THIRD BOOK TITLED ‘WILD RIVERS’

Photographic book focuses through the lens of Thai national heritage on five rivers

By: PANYAPORN PRUKSAKIT

A culmination of 12 years work and including a selection of more than 300 photographs, Bruce Kekule’s Wild Rivers is truly a photographic odyssey.  From the front cover, graced by the Asian tapir, an animal so rare it is considered a living fossil, one feels like this will be a truly special read. Kekule’s 20 years’ experience as a wildlife photographer, trekking and again through Thailand’s jungles, is invaluable to his epic undertaking, this his third book.

An old banteng bull and cow at a waterhole in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand

Kekule calls this a continuation of his dedication to the “Thai Natural Heritage” with Wild Rivers dedicated to His Majesty the King on his 80th birthday anniversary. On why he chose these particular rivers – the focus of this book is on fiver rivers: The Phetchaburi. Huai Kha Khaeng, Mae Klong, Khwae Noi and the Mae Ping – Kekule remarks the main reason was that they still have wildlife left, he says, as humans have been relentless in their expansion and development plans on other waterways.

Having lived in Thailand for over 40 years, he says that these rivers and the surrounding jungles are some of his favorite places in the country. A rather spiritual man, he recalls how the inspiration for his series of wildlife photography books came to him in a dream. Kekule’s passion for his career of choice is evident – one of his favorite quotes is by the Chinese philosopher Confucius, that one should choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.

An Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Southwest Thailand

From the opening pages of Wild Rivers, it is clear that Kekule not only seeks the natural beauty of Thailand’s rivers with the reader, but also to inform and educate about these “natural treasures”, as he calls them. As Kekule states in his forward, “without water, there would be no life.” The book begins with a history of Thailand’s formation, and the importance of Thailand’s rivers – what Kekule calls “the lifeblood of the nation”…(as) plants, animals and humans carry out (their) daily lives dependent on water.”

Kekule’s extensive experiences is evident in the clarity, sharpness and vivid colors which define all of his photographs. But what makes Kekule’s shots truly spectacular is that the animals he captures on film are truly in their natural habitat, almost unaware of his presence.

Equally as rivetingas the photographs, which fill the book is the narration from Kekule himself, about his adventures while writing the book. Entitled “notes from the field”, he tells of his encounters with rare creatures such as the king cobra. These stories are both endearing and amazing at the same time – he recalls how he “felt extremely happy at helping to save this beautiful bird of prey from dying,” upon finding an “owl going into shock from hypothermia” and using the campfire to warm-up this creature from a certain death. 

Wild pig along the river in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary

Kekule seems to have had more than his fair share of luck – indeed he concedes that he has been luckier than most other wildlife photographers, in coming upon rare animals such as the Asian tapir in the daytime. They are primarily nocturnal and hardly seen in the day, let alone photographed with good light. But he believes strongly in the “spirits of the forest”, whom he believes guide and help him. He writes how he pays his respects to the spirits – always before eating.”

However, Kekule’s career as a wildlife photographer has not been without its occupational hazards. He recalls in his book how he “became ill with the deadly Plasmodium falciparum (celebral malaria) that almost killed [him].” Kekule states that only a “medical procedure practiced here in Thailand for patients with severe malaria called a blood exchange transfusion” saved him. While he comments that he was lucky to survive”, even this experience has not kept him from capturing the wildlife of Thailand. However, he now takes some wise precautions that he did not previously adhere to, such as not photographing in the monsoon season.

Wild Rivers – 1st Edition dedicated to His Majesty the King on his 80th birthday anniversary

Kekule states how he will continue with his career for as long as he “can hold a camera and walk”, such is his determination. The most gripping and urgent message of Wild Rivers is found in the penultimate section of the book, entitled “Wildlife in Peril: Dangers threatening the natural world”. Kekule writes about how Thailand’s ecosystems are being progressively destroyed by encroachment, poachers, the black market and the traditional Asian medicine trade. He also writes how education and aid for local village Thais and hill tribe people is needed as middlemen “flash money at the people who are mostly poor and easily persuaded to break the law in order to feed this voracious [black market] trade.” Kekule outlines a step-by-step plan for the government, for “taking care of the natural resources” of Thailand, which included suggestions about budgets and addressing grassroots problems.

Kekule’s love of Thailand as a nation, and the setting for his wildlife photography adventures, is evident in every page of Wild Rivers. He hopes that his books will serve as part of education, which must be implemented in Thai schools to change the mentality towards wildlife and nature, and promote their conservation rather than their destruction. The stunning beauty of Kekule’s book and its important message can certainly not go unnoticed, if only because of the great artistry it showcases. But perhaps the reader can also take away Kekule’s message that “all humans have a right to exist, but unfortunately, not at the expense of the natural world.”

Published in the Bangkok Post’s Outlook Section on November 10, 2008.  The photos shown were actually used in the newspaper article when it was published.

 

 

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LAST OF WILDLIFE TRIOLOGY

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 posted by Bruce 10:33 AM

THIS POST IS THE THIRD IN A SERIES OF WILDLIFE STORIES THAT WERE PUBLISHED IN THE BANGKOK POST. WRITTEN BY USNISA SUKHSVASTI

LAST OF WILDLIFE TRIOLOGY

Male Indochinese tiger at a water hole in the Western Forest Complex

Wild Rivers: A Photographic Odyssey in Thailand is the third in a series of wildlife books — the first two were Wildlife in the Kingdom of Thailand and Thailand’s Natural Heritage – by L. Bruce Kekule, respected wildlife photographer and long time resident of Thailand. His books follow a pattern; First is an English-language edition, followed by a Thai language one.

Wild Rivers (1st Edition) was published in 2008, as dedication to His Majesty the King on the auspicious occasion of his 80th birthday, and the Thai edition (2011) recently out at the same time as the second-edition of the English version, dedicated to His Majesty the King on his 84th birthday, with the aim of sharing the beauty of the country’s natural heritage and its wildlife with the Thai people.

Wild Water Buffalo in the Huai Kha Khaeng River

The book covers six of Thailand’s major waterways: The Phetchaburi River, Khlong Saeng River (a new addition to the first edition), Huai Kha Khaeng, Mae Klong River, Khwae Noi River and the Mae Ping River.

The introduction describes the geographical locations of each river, emphasizing as always the importance of preserving these watersheds and the habitat for resident wildlife.

Black-and-red broadbill in Kaeng Krachan National Park

Each river is illustrated with photographs that he has collected from his forays into the wild over the past 12 years, allowing readers to admire the country’s wild animals in their natural habitat.

The book also includes a chapter on Thailand’s nature photographers where 1o Thai photographers and one foreign photographer have shared some of their most cherished images.

In the ‘Wildlife Photography’ chapter, Kekule shares tips and personal experiences gained from his decades in the field, his choice of equipment, the need for patience, the art of stealth, camera techniques, and even computer skills. He also mentions the hazards and dangers of being in the field, not only threats from large animals but also from the tiniest of creatures like ticks, ants and mosquitoes…!

He ends with a plea for nature conservation in ‘Wildlife in Peril’ to create awareness among readers to the diminishing  numbers of animals in the wild due to human ignorance or greed.

Wild Rivers – 2nd Edition dedicated to His Majesty the King on his 84th (7th Cycle) birthday

Wild Rivers – Thai Version (1st Edition) also dedicated to His Majesty the King on his 84th (7th Cycle) birthday

Readers can be sure of a visually pleasing read. Wild Rivers received a gold medal for the “Best in Sheet-fed Offset” and another gold award for “Best 4-color Printing” at the Thai Printing Association’s 4th Thai Print Awards in 2008.

The Thai version titled ‘Sai Natee Haeng Pong Prai was translated by Capt. Araya Amrapala, PhD.

Note: The photos shown here were actually used in the newspaper article when it was published.

 

 

 

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A bad ‘hair-ball’ day….!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 posted by Bruce 6:53 PM

Every once in awhile, I make a serious mistake and drive badly. With my good friend Kevin Denley in the passenger seat driving into Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary on Aug. 15th. 2016, I did not see a huge ditch by the side of the road and ended up falling into said ditch with my truck lying on it’s side. The passenger window was completely shattered and the whole left side of my truck was bashed in. Everything in the truck was on that side with Kevin wedged down. I was absolutely dumbfounded. We were stuck badly and it took some serious effort for Kevin to climb over me as I could not lift my door to get out. If I had been alone, I would have been in serious trouble. We finally climbed out and took stock.

Luckily, a ranger on a motorbike came along and I was able to get to the nearest village (20 kilometers away) to arrange a tractor (5 hour round trip) in order to pull us out. It took some time but we finally got up on 4-wheels. Luckily, neither of us were hurt but my pride took a beating. It was late at night by the time we got back to civilization, some food and a hotel with a hot shower. All I can say is: it was a bad ‘hair-ball’ day…!!

Bad driver

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Vultures in India…important birds for the habitat…!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 posted by Bruce 3:41 PM

While I was on safari in April 2016, I was lucky to get some nice vulture shots on a carcass at Corbett Tiger Reserve and then at a cliff-face in Panna Tiger Reserve.

Vultures on a dead spotted deer in Corbett Tiger Reserve

Himalayan Griffon , Red headed and Cinereous vultures plus a crow on a carcass in the Dikhala grassland in Corbett Tiger Reserve…!

Vultures flying into a dead spotted deer in Corbett Tiger Reserv

A Himalayan Griffon vulture flying into a spotted deer carcass…!

Vultures on a cliff-face in Panna

Long-billed vultures an a cliff-face in Panna Tiger Reserve…!

Himalayain Vulture flying in Panna Tiger Reserve

A vulture on the wing in mid-morning in Panna Tiger Reserve…!

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The Big Six: Large Dangerous Mammals of Africa and Asia

Sunday, January 10, 2016 posted by Bruce 10:35 AM

Africa’s Big Five…!

The ‘Big Five’ was coined by colonialists in East Africa by the big-game hunters sometime in the 1850s, and was trophies collected from large dangerous mammals taken with a gun. Photography was in its infant stage and very few photographs of wild animals in their natural habitat were around other than pictures of downed animals on the ground with the trophy hunter and gun bearers standing by its side.

Bull elephant in Tsavo West National Park, Kenya, during the late afternoon. This huge bull came real close to the car but passed by without incident. This was the largest tusker I had ever seen on my four safaries through 11 protected areas. Truly, a ‘wildlife icon’ of Kenya’s natural heritage. Taken with a Nikon D7000 and a 70-300 VRII lens @ 116mm. Offhand through the window.

Many rich and famous people went on safari to the ‘Dark Continent’ as it was called back then including Theodore Roosevelt, President of America and Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, plus many Hollywood movies stars like Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly and Stewart Granger. Going on safari was big business just after the turn of the 20th century, and usually only the ‘well-to-do’ could afford such a journey. They came from all around the world to hunt the large animals that were thriving in great numbers on the savannas and in the bush.

The ‘Big Five’ list consisted of the elephant, rhino (black and white), Cape buffalo, lion and leopard. Most hunters used large caliber rifles to bring down these mighty beasts as trophies to be hung on a wall, or a rug on the floor in the office or home. Other parts of some creatures ended up as trash cans, ashtrays, lampshades and jewelry to name just a few. This was way before cameras came into vogue to capture these animals on film and eventually digital.

White rhino mother and calves in Lake Nakuru National Park not far from Mount Kenya in the central region. This species is identified by their wide mouth and were reintroduced from South Africa as Kenya had lost most of its rhinos to legal hunting and illegal poaching for the horn. Taken with a Nikon D3s and a Nikon 400mm ƒ2.8 on a beanbag. 

Black rhino mother and calf in Nairobi National Park, Kenya. Part of the city of Nairobi is in the background and there are about 60 black rhinos trans-located from South Africa to this park. Taken with a Nikon D3s and a Nikon 200-400mm @ 650mm on a monopod…!

Cape buffalo in Tsavo East National Park, Southern Kenya. Note reddish color of this very mature bull due to red clay found in the area. Buffalo found in other areas of Kenya are mostly black. Taken with a Nikon D7000 and a Nikon 70-300mm VR II lens @ 220mm on a beanbag.

A black-maned lion in Taita Wildlife Sanctuary near Tsavo West National Park. This big cat was caught in the grassland just before the park closed for the day around 5:50pm. It was a lucky encounter. Taken with a Nikon D3s and a Nikon 200-400 VR II lens and a 2X teleconverter for 800mm on a bean-bag.

Leopard in the Masai Mara National Reserve in western Kenya. This big cat was seen and photographed on my very first day while on safari in this protected area. This was a real good start to capture the ‘Big Five’ of Africa as the leopard is the hardest to photograph in the group. Taken with a Nikon D3s and a Nikon 400mm ƒ2.8 lens on a beanbag.

Thailand’s Big Six…!

For the last twenty years, I have photographed all of Thailand’s large mammals including elephant, gaur, banteng, wild water buffalo plus tiger and leopard. It has been an excellent journey and experience for me, and I feel fortunate to have been at the right time and right place to capture these wild animals with my camera.

A tusker by the river in Sai Yok National Park in the Western Forest Complex. This shot was taken while he was fanning himself more than a decade ago and it is doubtful this big elephant is still surviving. Poachers chase after these elephants for their ivory just like everywhere else jumbos live. Taken with a Nikon F5 and a Nikon 500 P manual lens using Fuji Provia 100 slide film.

A small herd of gaur in Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Surat Thani province down in Southern Thailand. These herbivores thrive quite well here in this protected area along the shoreline of Khlong Saeng reservoir.  This was taken with Nikon D3 and a Nikon 400 ƒ2.8 lens on a tripod setup in a boat.

Very mature banteng bull and cow at a mineral deposit in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Forest Complex. These herbivores thrive very well in this protected area and there are estimated that more than 350 are found here. Taken with a Konica Minolta Dynax 7D and a Minolta 600mm lens from a photo blind across the river.

A wild water buffalo cow charging me by the river in Huai Kha Khaeng in the Western Forest Complex of Western Thailand. This female was part of a small herd wallowing in the waterway. Taken with a Nikon D2x and Nikon 400mm ƒ2.8 lens on a tripod mount from a boat-blind.

An Indochinese tiger at a waterhole in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand. There are about 200-250 tigers left in the forests in the East and West and some in the South. They are highly sought after by poachers for tiger body parts, bones and pelt. This male tiger was caught by Nikon D700 and Nikon 400mm ƒ2.8 lens from an elevated blind.

An Asian leopard crossing a fallen log in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand. This male cat was captured using a Nikon D700 trail camera with a Nikon 35mm lens and two Nikon flashes. These big cats are fairly common in this protected area and both color phases (black and yellow) can be found here.

A black leopard walking in the afternoon sun catching its spots at a hot spring in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Forest Complex. This mature cat stayed for more than an hour waiting on prey. This was taken with a Nikon N90s with a 500mm ƒ4 lens using Fuji Provia 100 slide film.

Africa’s Big Six…!

Then in 2010, 2011 and 2012, I made four trips to Kenya in Africa and collected images from ten protected areas including the Masai Mara National Reserve that was first on the list, followed by Lake Nakuru, Samburu, Amboseli, Tsavo East and Tsavo West national parks, Taita and Shimba Hills wildlife sanctuaries, Sweetwaters private reserve and finally, Nairobi National Park capturing the ‘The Big Six’ which includes the elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard and hippo while on safari. The hippo is included in this list because they take a serious toll on humans that get in their way and are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. Kenya has done a great job in preserving its wildlife heritage and hopefully one day I will return.

 

Elephant in Taita Wildlife Sanctuary in Southern Kenya between Tasvo East and West national parks. The large mammals in this area are mainly red colored due to the red clay found here. Taken with a Nikon D3s and a Nikon 600mm ƒ4 lens on a bean-bag.

Black rhino male in Nairobi National Park just outside Nairobi city in Kenya. These odd-toed ungulates were introduced from South Africa and now there are about 60 of them found here. Taken with a Nikon D700 and Nikon 200-400mm lens on a bean-bag.

White rhino in Nairobi National Park close to the Nairobi city in the background. These herbivores are now found in good numbers and were also introduced from South Africa. Taken with a Nikon D3s and Nikon 400mm ƒ2.8 lens on a bean-bag.

A Cape buffalo down in Shimba Hills Wildlife Sanctuary near Mombassa, Kenya. Due to the moist evergreen forest with loads of rain found here, the large mammals like buffalo and elephants are dark in color compared to their cousin further north that take on a red hue. Taken with a Nikon D7000 and a Nikon 70-300mm lens on a bean-bag.

A lion cub close to the road at dusk in Tsavo West National Park. These carnivores are found in good numbers here as the prey base is also good. Taken with a Nikon D3s and Nikon 600mm ƒ4 lens on a bean-bag.

A mother leopard in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Western Kenya. These carnivores thrive as prey species is very good in this protected area. Taken with a Nikon D3s and a Nikon 400mm ƒ2.8 lens on a bean-bag.

A male hippo in Tsavo West National Park in Southern Kenya. These huge herbivores live around large waterholes found in the park. They are dangerous mammals and more people die from hippo attacks then all the other big animals put together. Taken with Nikon D3s and a Nikon 600mm ƒ4 lens on a bean-bag.

India’s Big Six…!

India was next on my radar and my first trip happened in April 2013, then again in November 2014 and two trips last year (Feb-Mar & November, 2015). So far, I have visited the most famous protected areas in India consisting of Kaziranga, Ranthambore, Bandhavgarh, Corbett, Tadoba, Kanha, Pench and Satpura national parks and tiger reserves. The ‘Big Six’ list includes elephant, Indian rhino, wild water buffalo, gaur, tiger and the leopard were photographed.

Hunting back in the old days was carried out primarily by the British and India’s Royal Maharajahs, which almost wiped out many species especially the tiger. However, the country has done an amazing job of saving this species from the brink of extinction for people from around the world to see and enjoy. The balance of nature is still fairly intact and these creatures still thrive on the sub-continent in good numbers.

Bull elephant at a waterhole in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve in Assam State, Northeastern India. There are some 1,000 of these herbivores found in the park. Taken with a Nikon D3s and a Nikon 200-400mm lens on a mono-pod.

Kaziranga National Park

A male Indian one-horned rhino in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve. There are roughly 2,400 rhinos now and is one of the greatest conservation success stories in the world. Some 80 years ago, there were a mere 12 remaining and the Assamese government established a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy for any poachers found in the park. Taken with a Nikon D3s and Nikon 200-400mm lens on a mono-pod.

A wild water buffalo in a waterhole in the park with huge horns. These herbivores have the largest horns in the world. There are some 1,300 buffalo found here and is one of the largest herds in the world. Taken with Nikon D3s and a Nikon 200-400mm lens on a mono-pod.

A bull gaur in Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve, Central India. These even-toed ungulates are the largest bovine in the world standing 1.7 meters at the shoulder. Taken with a Nikon D3s and a Nikon 200-400mm lens on a mono-pod.

A male tiger named ‘Wagdoh’ (one-eye) in Tadoba Anhari Wildlife Sanctuary in Central India. There are about 2,400 tigers in India’s protected areas and is the largest population in the world. Taken with a Nikon D3s and a Nikon 200-400mm lens on a mono-pod.

A female leopard in late morning in Tadoba Anhari National Park, Central India. For the most part, leopards are tough to spot in the forests of India. However, luck does come and this beautiful girl posed for my camera on my first morning safari in March 2015. Taken with a Nikon D3s and a Nikon 200-400mm lens on a mono-pod.

In 1995, I began what will be my last profession in life when I picked up a camera some two decades ago. Photographing wildlife is the greatest thing I have ever accomplished in my 70-odd years on the planet. It has been a journey of discovery and rediscovery, and sometimes I wish I could have started wildlife photography when I first came to Thailand in 1964. The jungles and teak forests were absolutely teaming with wild creatures from Asian elephants down to tree shrews. Birds, reptiles, amphibians plus insects and spiders were also found in great numbers.

Conclusion: It is my opinion and utmost worry that some of these ecosystems and large mammals found in Thailand, Kenya and India are in jeopardy from human influences. Certain species have gone into serious decline or have even become locally extinct due to the human population explosion, and expansion into these wild places. Therefore, more is needed to protect and save the natural wonders of ‘Planet Earth’ from annihilation by the human element before it is too late. A thousand percent increase in preservation, forest management, more personnel and rangers on the ground plus more funds is the only answer. But with so many obstacles in the mix, I remain optimistic about wildlife in many forests of the future. As the natural biospheres undergo serious threats and changes to their integrity by humans, the road to extinction is at hand for many.

However, saving wildlife and the protected areas where they live with good security and enforcement must be implemented and is the key to the animal’s future survival in places like Kaziranga National Park in Assam, northeast India. Here, most guards are armed with a .303 service rifle and extreme measures are upheld to the letter; poachers are dealt with swiftly and in a deadly manner in some cases. Because of the stringent rules and protection, there are 2,400 Great Indian rhino, 1,300 wild water buffalo, 1,000 elephant and one of the highest tiger densities in the world with over 100 big cats living in a smallish (840 sq. kilometers) park. Kaziranga is the true role-model for real wildlife conservation around the world in desperate times. As more and more creatures disappear from the wild, tougher rules and regulations is the only way to guarantee their future survival…!

 

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Bruce on the Loose in the USA…!

Sunday, December 1, 2013 posted by Bruce 11:04 AM

THE TRIP: STATE BY STATE…!

In August, I decided to do a road trip in the USA. I arrived in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas on October 18 and spent a few days with my family in Grand Prairie (between D-FW) before heading out. Got a Nissan ‘Altima’ from Hertz with unlimited mileage and got some 35 miles to the gallon. The car was very comfortable and handled well. Also, bought a Garmin Nuvi 2597 GPS and boy, did that ever come in handy. I could have bought two GPSs if I had rented one from Hertz at $12.99 plus tax a day….ouch…! Over the entire trip, it (she) took me to everyone’s front door; simply amazing.

On October 21st, I left Grand Prairie, Texas to Oklahoma (one night), then up to Nebraska (three nights), Wisconsin (one night) Minnesota (one night), Michigan (three nights), Pennsylvania (one night) and New York (for a 5 day rest). It was back on the road again down to New Jersey and back up to Pennsylvania (one night). Then it was down to Tennessee (two nights), Georgia (two nights), Florida (two nights), Alabama (one night) Louisiana (five nights) and back to Dallas. The odometer at the end of the trip was 6,240 miles. The main objective for this mega-trip was to visit my friends on Camtrapper.com forum in the the Mid-West and East.

Unfortunately, I missed Fireman Jim in Dechard, TN (he was at work) and Ron Davis in Jacksonville, FL (out hunting in Georgia)…but I did talk with both of them on the phone at length…!

I also did a wildlife presentation for the Biology Club at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. This group are serious students of wildlife conservation…!

Another objective was to meet-up with Beak, an old friend I knew more than 45 years ago in Thailand…..We visited the Okefenokee Swamp together in southern Georgia with the main objective of photographing the American alligator. It was fun and I got my gator…also met a lovely Cajun girl who was our naturalist/guide/boat operator; she was sweet and knew her stuff about the swamp…!

List of Camera Trap guys that I met on this trip:

1) ghoot – Gary Kohout at Snapshotsniper – Duncan, OK

2) TRLcam – Jeff Dale – Walton, NE

3) jjkscf – Joe Kahl – St Croix Falls, WI

4) willy – Sean Hall – Cloquet, MN

5) wolvenkinde – Lon Ludach – Ironwood, MI

6) IroquoisArcher – Jon LeVan – Erie, PA

8) johnnydeerhunter – John Lockburner – Boonton, NJ

9) Buckhunter1 – Bruce Kisner- Wyalusing, PA

Other people I visited along the way as follows:

10) Wayne (Beak) Sivaslian from Schenectady, NY (My dear friend and buddy for more that 45 years).

11) Dr Robert Orr in Knoxville, TN (retired professor at the University).

12) Brad Preston and Chris Lytle, in New Orleans, LA (business associates).

13) Bryan Marlborough in Baton Rouge LA (my webmaster).

And finally, stopped by my 5 acres of timberland outside of De Ridder, LA…as I was leaving my property, a bobcat bounded across the front of a pickup coming towards me. I will camera trap this thicket one day knowing that many animals pass through…!

Politics in Thailand have just had another negative downturn and I might have to set-up some sort of a fall-back in the US. I’m thinking I could homestead my land if Thailand went into serious civil unrest….I’m just prepping for what might come…!!

I enjoyed my trip in the States and look forward to another one in the future. I would like to thank all of you who extended your kind hospitality and friendship. and look forward to doing it again…!

6,240 miles

The odometer back in Texas. 6,240 miles total..!

Bruces trip2

The route and guys I met on the trip. I will post (Part Two) more photos ASAP.

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Thailand’s Vanishing Giants

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 posted by Bruce 1:10 PM

A family unit in Khao Yai National Park.

Increasingly dangerous environment for wild elephants: An indicator species of a pristine forest

Of all the mammals in Thailand, the wild elephant is probably the most important indicator species of a disappearing wilderness. A century ago, there were more than a hundred thousand elephants found in the country when 75 percent of the Kingdom was still covered by forest. Just north and east of Bangkok, these huge mammals thrived in the marshlands and forests near the city.

But as time passed and humanity expanded creating cities and towns, roads and highways, railways, agriculture farmlands, golf courses and resorts, the home of the wild elephant began to disappear leaving many forests fragmentized and degraded. Populations of wild elephants went into serious decline. Humans are directly responsible for this loss with encroachment and poaching at the forefront. Forests and wildlife continue to disappear as we move into the 21st Century.

When Khao Yai, the first national park in Thailand was established in 1962, the Royal Forest Department (RFD) was in charge of protecting the forest. Prior to that, they controlled logging concessions and huge swathes of forest were felled in the timber business. Finally, the government stopped all logging in 1989. However, illegal tree felling is still going on to this day but on a smaller scale.

Tusker camera trapped in Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary, eastern Thailand.

Then in 1992, the Department of National Parks (DNP) was established to look after the national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, non-hunting areas and marine national parks. There are now over two hundred protected areas nation-wide.

Since then, it has taken many, many years for the department to establish some form of protection and enforcement. Patrolling of the forests has been minimal due to many factors. Unfortunately, things have been difficult for them to look after these biospheres because of low budgets and not enough personnel. Laws are seriously outdated especially when it comes to elephants.

Elephants in the Huai Kha Khaeng river blowing water.

The history of man and elephants in Asia has been intertwined for several thousand years. These majestic creatures taken from the wild have been part of human culture and beliefs. Elephants played a major role in the wars with Burma of the past. Until recently, the elephant was not only used for logging but for transport and baggage. More recently, they are used to attract tourists at camps and in cities where people use them for begging. The domestic elephant has been abused, and very badly in some cases.

Begging elephant in Chiang Mai – Abstract.

Probably the most appalling fate for a domesticated elephant is to become a streetwalker. These magnificent creatures are forced to walk hot, dusty and polluted streets of Thai cities ‘begging’ for food and money. Stories about elephants hit by cars and falling into drainage ditches, plus other accidents have been documented.

Ten years ago, it was guesstimated that 2,000 wild and 3,000 domestic elephants were thriving in the country. Due to an increased DNP and NGO interaction in the parks and sanctuaries, wild elephants have made a bit of a comeback in some protected areas. There are now (still guesstimated) to be about 3,000 wild elephants and more than 4,000 domesticated animals. Population density surveys have been carried out in some parks but exact numbers of the wild population are still uncertain.

Elephants on a truck bound for Chiang Mai.

The biggest threat to wild elephants is still the same. Poaching males for their ivory and females for their babies. Recent kills in Kaeng Krachan National Park in the Southwest have gone on for quite sometime due to poor protection and enforcement, and numbers of elephants have dropped.

Elephants in the savanna of Kui Buri National Park.

It is quite possible that they have migrated to Kui Buri National Park further south along a thin corridor along the Burmese border. Numbers in Kui Buri have increased 100 percent in the last five to ten years, and evidence of elephants in Prak Tha Kor Reserve Forest between the two parks has been documented. This area needs to be established as a protected area.

Elephant herd in Kui Buri National Park.

The following is a typical scenario of baby elephant snatching. Gunshots reverberate explosively through the forest, panicking and scattering a herd of wild elephants. The huge beasts instinctively flee as fast as they can through heavy foliage away from the cacophony. In minutes, the forest returns to normal. But the sad fact is that humans have just disrupted the herd permanently.

A large herd in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.

A baby elephant mills aimlessly around its mother lying dead on the ground. The confused calf has no sense of danger as poachers move in to capture it to be sold on the illegal black market. The calf will likely be forced to wander city streets or work in tourist camps.

A small herd including a calf in the Huai Kha Khaeng river.

Such atrocities are still practiced by unscrupulous people intent on killing the mother solely to capture the baby. Many other animals are also hunted down in much the same way. Middleman, the ‘big-fish’ and end-use buyers perpetuate this market and seem to evade the law. When will this horror story ever stop?

A tusker and tourists in Khao Yai.

In another real-life scenario, a young tusker is killed on the road that transects the northern part of the elephant’s range in Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Thailand. It is home to about 170 wild elephants. The road had been widened and resurfaced to enable faster speed.

Tuskless bull in Huai Kha Khaeng.

During late-evening one day in May 2002, a man and woman in a pickup truck barreling through the sanctuary at high speed did not see the elephants on the road until it was too late. The truck crashed head-on into a 5-year-old tusker. The truck’s driver was killed on impact but the woman survived. The young elephant died shortly after.

Tusker on the road in Khao Yai NP.

This young tusker was not the first and definitely will not be the last elephant to be killed by reckless driving on this road. Eventually, the local government ordered the road closed through Khao Ang Rue Nai from 9pm to 5am. The elephants come out of the forest usually only at night and can now roam safely in their own habitat. Accidents and road-kill have dropped drastically. Definitely a role model for other protected areas with elephant-human conflicts.

Another tusker on the road in Khao Yai N.P.

Such accidents are a terrible blow to the conservation of Thai elephants, because tuskers are particularly vulnerable, being subject to hunting for their ivory. Asian ivory is finer-grained than African ivory and prized for carving into trinkets and Japanese hanko (signature seals).

Herd in Kui Buri N.P.

Much of their habitat has been taken over, mainly by pineapple, sugarcane and cassava. Villages spring up in old elephant habitat, and the trespassers expect the giants to simply fade away into the forest. But elephants can develop a taste for crops grown by farmers, and they often take what they want. Countless conflicts have arisen between villagers and the real owners of the land, whose ancestors have lived there for many thousands of years.

Herd in the Huai Kha Khaeng river.

Elephants have been maimed and killed by poisoning waterholes, pungee stakes, gunshots, and electrocution. They have been chased out of rice paddies, mango orchards and farmlands. People use fireworks, bright lights and guns to scare them away temporarily, but the elephants are intelligent enough to lose their fear of such ruses.

Elephant on the highway north of Bangkok.

These giants grow bolder and go on the rampage, sometimes killing people, tearing up villages and damaging RFD and DNP facilities. Some conservation organizations have erected new signs warning of the danger of elephants in the area.

Elephant and handler begging near ‘700 Years’ Stadium in Chiang Mai.

A trip at night around some cities, one can still be greeted by a huge gray beast with a red light attached to its tail. Continuous calls for change go unnoticed by mahouts and the owners of these elephants who sneak them into tourist sites. Legislation concerning domesticated elephants remains old and out-dated, and law enforcement has also been very poor. On the positive side of things, the authorities have finally moved them out of Bangkok, but they still roam on the outskirts in some places.

Elephant in a mineral deposit in Kaeng Krachan N.P.

It is hoped that the RFD, DNP and other government organizations will draw attention to the dire situation of Thai elephants, both wild and domestic. These noble beasts have featured prominently in almost every important historical event in the Kingdom. They are a national symbol of pride and joy. The Thai elephants’ future survival lies in the hands of the government who are responsible for these amazing giants….!

Special Note:

I would like to thank Andy Merk, German wildlife photographer for the lead photograph. He has been hanging around Khao Yai for the last 20 some years and has a huge collection of elephant photos from the park. He is doing a survey of trying to get a estimate of the population by identifying individual elephants by their ears, specially the male tuskers and mature females.

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A ‘Black Leopard’ again..!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 posted by Bruce 7:07 PM

An extraordinary sighting in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary

A black leopard resting at the hot spring.

Sometimes things happen in succession that boggles the mind. On May 6th I posted a tale about a ‘black leopard’ plus other Asian wild animals caught by my Sony S600 cam on a trail into a hot spring in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, western Thailand where I’m currently running a camera trap program.

Entering the hot spring.

I also mentioned in the story that I photographed a ‘black leopard’ from a tree blind some 15 years ago just up the trail a bit. The ‘leopard spots’ image is one of my all-time favorite wildlife photographs ever. http://brucekekule.com/camera_trapping/a-black-leopard-passes-my-camera-trap/

Leaving the hot spring.

On May 7th, I was back at the hot springs to set camera traps, and to sit at the base of the old tree for some through-the-lens work. Who knows what might show-up.

I was with my friend Sarawut Sawkhamkhet, a Thai wildlife photographer. We arrived and set-up a temporary blind about 3pm. The weather was warm and balmy with nice clear-blue skies.

A full-frame shot.

At 5:45pm, the unthinkable happened! A ‘black leopard’ appeared out of the forest near the springs and walked over for a drink, and then disappeared for a short while. Then the magnificent creature came back and flopped down on all fours twitching its tail looking straight at us staying for about 10 minutes before going back in the forest where it had come from.

Kabook Kabieng hot springs deep in the interior.

I would venture to say, this is the same cat I camera trapped back in February and it could also be an offspring of my original leopard back in 1998. Who knows? I was elated to say the least.

To see and photograph a black leopard once again at this same location after all these years is something out of the extraordinary. When time permitted, I set one of my trusty Sony S600 cams at the hot spring and will go back in a couple of weeks to see what has visited the waterhole.

Then I intend to set a DSLR Nikon or Canon camera trap with several flashes for improved images. This place is truly worth the effort, time and difficulty to get here. I look forward to more incredible images from this wildlife haven.

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THIS POST IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF WILDLIFE STORIES THAT WERE PUBLISHED IN THE BANGKOK POST IN THEIR NATURE SECTION: ‘ASIAN WILDLIFE THROUGH THE LENS’. Text and photos © L. Bruce Kekule

“The present government should take a positive interest in preserving what remains of the Kingdom’s natural treasures before it’s too late”

“Before World War II, 75% of the nation was still covered in pristine forests”…!

“What remains is still worth saving”…!

 

Asiatic jackal by the side of the road in Huai Kha Khaeng

Thailand’s wildlife and forests has evolved over millions of years into some of the most beautiful and interesting in the world. Photographing these ecosystems and rare animals such as the Siamese crocodile, tiger, leopard, gaur, banteng, wild water buffalo, elephant and tapir, plus a multitude of other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, spiders and insects in their natural habitats is a daunting task to say the least. A multitude of different aspects contribute to the difficult and sometimes dangerous pastime of wildlife photography.

Gibbon calling during the morning in Huai Kha Khaeng

Probably the most prominent is the ever-increasing human population and social ills like poaching, gathering and encroachment in the protected areas. This alone has taken its toll and the country’s wild flora and fauna, from under the sea to the highest mountains, are in serious jeopardy with a slim chance of recovery to the magnificent ecosystems of the past. However, not all is lost and the present generation should take a positive interest in preserving what remains of the Kingdom’s natural treasures before it is too late.

Nature photography is one of the best ways to record and promote wildlife conservation awareness. Wildlife photographs create a mental image that can improve one’s love and understanding of the wonderful world of nature. Many people in the cities have a misconception that Thailand’s wildlife and forests has diminished to the point of no return, or has disappeared into the depths of extinction. This is unfortunate and needs constant education and media projection to uplift the people’s knowledge that many species do in fact, still survive.

Sambar with a blue magpie feeding on ticks in Huai Kha Khaeng

Low densities at many sites depleted over the years by poaching and encroachment before any form of protection was implemented is probably one of the main reasons. Human pressure and the Asian traditional medicine trade are directly responsible for the disappearing wild species. The black market trade in wildlife seems to be on the increase and the authorities are continually working to eradicate this destructive illegal business.

Before World War Two, 75 percent of the nation was still covered in pristine forests. Barely 30 percent survives today and most of these are seriously degraded. Wildlife has become scarce and extremely elusive and hence, difficult to photograph. With no subjects, it can be a tough assignment to capture wild creatures that were once quite common. Knowing where to go with the right equipment is just part of the process. Many other aspects are also important and I will try to pass on some of my experiences to those who desire to try their hand at nature/wildlife photography.

Sambar doe on the run in Huai Kha Khaeng

A few protected areas still remain fairly intact with good densities of flora and fauna. Prey species are abundant and carnivores thrive. These havens for wildlife include time honored Huai Kha Khaeng and Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuaries, Thailand’s top nature reserve and a World Heritage Site. Due to its size (more than 6,000 square kilometers) and biodiversity, this site is absolutely the best tiger habitat left in the Kingdom. It must be saved at all costs for present and future generations.

Kaeng Krachan and Kui Buri national parks further south along the western border with Burma still have very good ecosystems with an abundance of flora and fauna. Other protected areas include: Khao Yai, Thap Lan, Pang Sida national parks in the northeast; Khao Ang Rue Nai and Khao Soi Dow wildlife sanctuaries in the east; Sai Yok, Erawan, Sri Nakarin national parks and Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary in the west; Khao Sok National Park, and Khlong Saeng and Khlong Nakha wildlife sanctuaries in the south; and finally, Tarutao National Park and Hala Bala and Budo wildlife sanctuaries in the deep south all have wildlife and make good photographic destinations. However, the security is not too good at the moment and maybe it would be better to wait until things improve for these southern nature reserves.

Gaur herd at a mineral deposit in Huai Kha Khaeng

Wildlife photography is a difficult hobby or profession to become proficient. Years of trial and error, lost shots, bad exposure, out of focus, no wildlife subjects, equipment failure, expense and many other intricate problems make things difficult for the wildlife photographer. Travel plans and permission to enter some of the sensitive protected areas is a hurdle that must be crossed before any photographs can be taken. But where there is a will, there is a way and the difficult can be overcome.

Cameras and lenses in the professional range are expensive but amateur equipment can also provide satisfactory results. Modern technology like the Digital Single Lens Reflex (D-SLR) is now the ultimate and both Nikon and Canon remain the most popular brands for variety (beginner to professional both in lenses and cameras). Other makes like Sony, Pentax, Olympus and Sigma also offer very good equipment. Aftermarket lenses from Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina cost less than the top brands but produce satisfactory to very good photographs.

Spangled drongo in Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary

Another form of wildlife photography is the use of infrared camera traps that allows one to capture illusive and rare animals, plus new digital cameras show results in real time. Readymade camera traps are available and a quick search on the Internet will show dozens of makes and models.

 

Female tiger camera trapped in Huai Kha Khaeng

The use of a photo-blind is very important as is self-control and patience, which comes with practice and a desire to get a photograph of nature’s creatures. Long stints in the blind and hot weather are something that comes with practice. Wildlife encounters are usually brief and one must always be ready with camera in hand ready to shoot on a moments’ notice.

Black orb spider along a trail in Huai Kha Khaeng

No two days are alike in the natural world and opportunities must be taken then and there if one is to be a successful wildlife photographer. Finally, share your photographs with as many people as possible in order to send a message to all that nature is truly worth saving for the future.

 

Published in the Bangkok Post on February 27, 2013 in the Life – Nature section…!

 

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