Posts Tagged ‘camera-trapping’
Two stolen cams and a female elephant in the dense bush on Dec. 30, 2016…!!
An Indochinese tiger passes my Nikon D700 DSLR camera trap on 8/13/2016 – 6:24 AM…!
As most of my friends know, I went to the USA back in September 2016 to do a road trip and my first ‘bucket list’ visiting the Grand Canyon, Zion, Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks respectively, and then up into Canada. It was a great trip and I was able to tick those items off my list. I returned to Thailand on Nov. 15th and it took me sometime before I could get into the forest to check my camera traps.
A young bull elephant taking in minerals…!
Before I left, I set four DSLR traps, and three video cams where I usually work in the ‘Western Forest Complex’ northwest of Bangkok. Over the years, this place has proven very productive capturing photos of tigers and other cryptic creatures in the wild forests found here. Thailand’s natural legacy is still thriving and I have some remarkable images of nature on file.
A banteng bull bolts as the cam’s flashes go off…!
Unfortunately, lady luck decided to look the other way. Two videos (a Bushnell Trophy Cam and a ‘Fireman Jim’ DXG 125-day only cam) were stolen by poachers (or some other dishonest and very undesirable people) which of course was a shock to me…I’ve been working in this sanctuary for more than 20 years and never lost anything…I was proud of this fact and record. So it’s back to the drawing board to improve the possibility of theft. I have ‘elephant proofing’ down pat but a new design to double-up the security of all my cams is needed (extra work for me) and I will post this at a later date.
A pair of banteng cows bolt from the mineral deposit…!
So I decided to move out of the area and not set any camera traps here for now. But there is a hot-spring close by with a blind set up to facilitate photography through the lens. This natural place has tiger and leopard that roam around and it is here 18 years ago, that I photographed a black leopard up at the mineral deposit. I got my Nikon D4s with a 200-400mm lens and tripod, and a Nikon D3000 with a Tamron 70-200mm lens ready plus some snacks, water, camo material plus my pistol (remember elephant country) and hiked in about a kilometer to the blind. On the way in, I bumped into a wild elephant camp with fresh tracks and poop all over the place. A big herd was nearby…!
A young sambar stag in the morning…!
As usual, I just moved through and then sat in the blind that afternoon collecting some nice shots of barking deer and a young male peafowl shown here. Around 6pm, I packed-up for the walk back to the truck. About 100 meters down the track, I saw a big elephant on the trail…oh poop, my trail back to the truck was blocked and I certainly was not going to put my life in jeopardy (mother’s with small baby elephants or big tusk-less bulls means certain death). I turned back towards the blind and there was another smaller jumbo behind me.
A pair of sambar does late at night…!
This was serious as it seemed I was surrounded by the herd. So the only thing was to pop-off a round in the air with my Colt Government .38 Super Auto which brought out a roar from the big one down on the trail but the little one fled into the bush. I rushed back to the blind and threw down my chair and some trash in a plastic bag, and then hauled butt up another hill with a trail back to my parked truck. Up I went and it was rough going but I continued on. After about 20 minutes of thrashing around, it turned dark. With my headlamp on, I still struggled to find a trail. I got the shock of my life when I bumped into a huge female elephant not more than 6 meters away. She snorted at me and made a short mock charge but some small trees and saplings stopped her short. My pistol was out again and I let off another round in the air, and then yelled for her to Go, Go, Go as loud as I could.
A very old tapir taking in minerals…!
I was lucky as she was alone, and squealed high-tailing it in the opposite direction. I let out a sigh of relief and took stock…I had my iPhone and turned on the compass and went west. I then found a worn path back to a mineral deposit at the front near the road and eventually my truck. Now that was a close call and one that I do not want to repeat.
Muntjac (barking deer) pair at the hot-springs in mid-afternoon…!
It was about 8pm before I got going. About 10 kilometers down the track back to camp, I took a wrong turn and ran over a huge bolder getting stuck. Had to winch myself over it (just replaced a broken cable a few days before – lucky). I got back to camp arriving about 9pm. At the station, had a few sundowners to calm my nerves and then it was straight to bed. I had to go back to the blind the next morning to pick-up my camp chair and that rubbish I had left behind the night before. As I went through the mineral deposit, the elephants had retreated to the deep bush and I passed through without incident..!
A female muntjac jumping in front of a young male peafowl in display…!
I then left the area and went to where I had set the four DSLRs. During the time I was in the States, my D700 performed extremely well. Got a tiger a few days after I set the cam in late Aug. 2016. Also, got banteng (wild cattle), elephant and sambar and barking deer plus an old tapir. The other three cams did not work at all and I got nothing (primarily battery problems). One of the D700’s flashes and the sensor got ripped up by elephants as I did not have a sturdy tree to attached them to and just laid them on the ground (big mistake). The other flash and the D700 were fine having attached with lag bolts to a tree. I will be setting this D700 nearby at another deposit with a bigger tree…!!
All that’s left of a Bushnell Trophy Cam…!
All in all, getting the tiger was a plus even though it’s not a very nice photograph with leaf shadow on its face from the flash on the ground. As soon as time permits, I’ll be setting more DSLRs at my favorite places before a scheduled trip to India in late-February…! Finally, I want everyone to know that I carry a pistol for protection, and as a noise-maker when necessary as in this case. I might not have made it back on the 30th December if I did not have my sidearm…!!
All that’s what is left of a ‘Fireman Jim’ DXG 125 video cam: Opened by humans and then bent by elephants…!
Following is a gallery of elephants by camera trap and through the lens…!!
This is what they call a ‘Tuskless Bull’…taller and bigger than a tusker…!
A family unit has just left the hot-spring close to where I was sitting….they were about 100-yards away…!
Bumping into one of these guys or gals at night can be scary…!
And they can ring your neck and that’s be all she wrote…!
A youngish elephant at the old ‘tiger log’…!
A young tusker and female on a trail in the bush at night…!
Even a very young bull could wreck havoc if you bumped into him deep in the bush…!
The ‘tiger hunter’ setting one of his cams in the ‘Western Forest Complex’…!
For the most part, wild elephants will flee at the first sight or smell of humans. However, there are exceptions and many a trekker, poacher and ranger has met their fate with a mother and infant, or an old mean bull. The best option is to climb a tree but this is not always possible. Running uphill is another way to escape these beasts if they are determined to stomp you…I always pray to the forest spirits not to bump into the jumbos period….life is too short…!!
Sony A500 catches a tiger and poachers at ISO 12,800
Sometimes, mind lapse is a serious problem for a senior citizen like myself. I set my Sony A500 on a trail just inside the boundary of my favorite protected area in Thailand. This location has already produced some amazing shots of black leopard and tiger plus many prey species like elephant, banteng, barking deer, sambar and wild pig.
Tiger passes the Sony A500…!
Tiger with a radio collar passes the Sony…!
On the negative side of things, this cam has also caught poachers and gatherers as they illegally sneak into, and exit the sanctuary. Poor patrolling and enforcement with many loopholes allow these undesirables to penetrate and poach animals and forest products for sale or personal use. It is a serious threat to all of Thailand’s protected areas and is on-going problem for the Department of National Parks (DNP)…!
Poachers with baskets and digging tools after bamboo shoots during the rainy season…!
Wildlife poachers with no basket…!
This Sony has been working very well catching a male tiger with a radio collar at night several months ago. I noticed that several people on the forum were setting their cams at ISO 200 and thought I would give it a try. When I left the cam, I thought it was at the 200 setting.
A month or so later, I went back to change out batteries, card and desiccant, and saw the same tiger with a collar had visited twice plus some poachers caught using the same path. When I downloaded the images, I was shocked to see the ISO at 12,800…what the heck happened here…?
I don’t know but it looks like I did not save the settings before buttoning up the cam and somehow pushed the 12,800-button. This was of course another disappointment. The shots are cluttered with noise and I have tweaked the images but it’s a fact: photos with ISO this high is absolute rubbish and can only be counted as record shots.
Another thing: only one flash on the right was working hence the deep shadow. I found a broken wire on the other flash so brought the whole unit in for repair. I will be setting another Sony (A55 with a 55mm lens) DSLR cam with 4 flashes (hard-wired) to see what might pass-by.
The ‘Tiger Hunter’ setting a Bushnell Trophy Cam…!
The A500 cam is now back in the forest but at a new location with settings at ƒ8 – 1/125 – ISO 200. It was working well firing off 4-shot strings during walk test and hopefully it will produce some good shots now. Leopards and tiger plus all the other denizens of the Thai forest use this trail so I can only wait till I get back to the cam in a couple weeks.……!
One of the most beautiful of all the Asian wild cats
Once upon a time, the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) was found all over Thailand when some 75 percent of the country was covered in forest. At the end of WWII, the human population really began to explode and these magnificent biospheres were cut down for agriculture and settlement taking all the natural resources in its wake. Modern transportation, weapons and logging on a grand scale began to quickly shrink this once remarkable heritage.
Barely 20 percent forest cover is now surviving in an ever-shrinking wilderness. The clouded leopard has been exterminated primarily for its pelt and now survives in all but a few protected areas throughout the Kingdom. It is one of the most beautiful marked creatures in the world. The marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata), another wild feline is similar in coat pattern but smaller in size. Both of these cats have become extremely rare throughout their range.
In July of this year, I decided to make a trip down to Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary in southern Thailand in conjunction with Greg McCann and Habitat I.D. (NGO to monitor wildlife in Southeast Asia) to set some camera traps in the moist evergreen forest to see what was still thriving here. Three years ago, I did a camera trap and photographic survey of this protected area and got a marbled cat up on a ridgeline in the interior, plus a clouded leopard in a cave entrance at another location. I knew there was still good possibilities that I would get these cats again.
I decided to set my Nikon D90 DSLR trail cam along with a couple Bushnell Trophy Cams at this same location. Unfortunately, the hard-wired slave flashes were not working due to wiring problems and so left the cam with its single hot-shoe mounted Nikon SB-400 flash. I knew then if the cam caught any creature, I would get images with ‘eye-shine’ but decided to leave it anyway.
I have just returned from Khlong Saeng to collect the data from these cams. Imagine my surprise to see a clouded leopard on the D90’s card. It was an absolute joy to see this cat had passed the cam and even though the ‘eye-shine’ was there, the markings and beauty of this carnivore is truly remarkable. I have pulled the D90 and put a Canon 400D with three Nikon SB-28 slaves which was working very well when I left it. The Bushnell cams also recorded many other species and I will be doing a video post soon. Enjoy…!
A male Indochinese tiger in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand..!
What are the odds that my DSLRs would capture two different tigers sporting radio collars within one week of each other..? These are real fluke camera trap shots taken some twenty kilometers away from my Nikon D700 that caught a female also with a collar at the ‘tiger log’. I just posted this on this website a couple of days ago. http://brucekekule.com/camera_trapping/nikon-d700-catches-an-indochinese-female-tiger-sporting-a-radio-collar/
The Sony A500 was triggered by a male tiger on Sept. 17, 2014 at 10:26 PM while the D700 got a female on Sept. 24 at 5:45 AM. I only captured two tigers this trip and it seems weird that they both have collars. Maybe the ‘spirits of the forest’ wanted me to really show and tell the world what is actually going on in this forest concerning tigers. Who knows..?
Needless to say, I’ve already vented my feelings about tigers and radio collars in my recent D700 post so there’s no sense in going there again. However, the A500 got a nice string of shots of this male with a huge collar. I think the battery is on the bottom and transmitter on top. This monstrosity surely looks heavy..!
Unfortunately, only one flash on the right triggered which was a bit of a let-down. The other flash was up high on the tree pointing down at the tiger and would have cancelled that shadow. It was one of those things and there’s always next time. The A500 fired four quick shots and as the big cat jumped forward, triggered another five as he leaped to the right. All in all, I was still pleased with the results and look forward to a ‘black cat’ that I once videoed in broad daylight at this very location.
Noise is also a problem with these images, as I had to do some heavy tweaking in Camera Raw and Photoshop to get them to acceptable levels. If I had been shooting in JPG. format, there would be no chance to bring these back. RAW capture is the only way to revive images when things get dark with not enough light.
I’m not sure if this is inherent to Sony but I think most makes and brands with low light means serious noise although the newer pro-cameras handle noise quite well. The settings are: ƒ8 – 1/80th – 400 ISO…flash set to ¼ power, and lens was a Minolta 28mm (old lens I have had for years). It’s a wonder I got these shots at all..!
Oh well, back to the drawing board on flash standby power. I’m putting together a couple Nikon SB-28 and SB-600 flashes that will work with hard-wire or radio triggers with four Eneloop AAs in the flash and four rechargeable ‘Ultracell ‘D’ cells with 11,000 mAh capacity as externals to add more power for longer soaks. This will all fit in a lockable ‘Tupperware’ type box as shown.
I will try these on the A500 first to see if there is a difference with staying power. I also believe that three or more flashes are the ticket for well-lit shots…I know Steve Winter with N.G. sometimes uses from 4-5 flashes depending on terrain.
It’s a never-ending battle with the DSLRs but I guess that’s what I like about using them: the challenge to get tigers and leopards on digital camera plus all the other cryptic animals in Thailand’s forests…it all becomes worthwhile when I do get a shot or shots…! Enjoy.
For the first time, a snarling tiger shows what their reaction is to a video cam with red LEDs when actuated at night. This male tiger is a resident at this location in the ‘Western Forest Complex’…a black leopard also passed the cam several times but did not actually look at the LEDs and so no reaction was recorded.
At the second location, the tigers did not seem too bothered by the red blob…! I now have a few cams including my Nikon D700 set-up here and hopefully will catch a tiger with my DSLR trail cam…!! Please enjoy these videos and even though they are a bit fuzzy, still show Thailand’s amazing natural heritage at its best.
The ‘Big Cat Trailhead’ has proven to be a real wildlife haven with loads of cats plus other carnivores walking past on almost a daily/nightly basis. Because of so much interaction, I decided to set-up my Nikon D90/SB400/Yeti/Plano 1460 case facing the other way opposite my Canon 400D.
The Yeti board was very old and not working too well. I tried to adjust distance and sensitivity but it still would only trip the cam from about a meter away. However, the cam did get one shot of a ‘Large Indian Civet’ shown here. The markings on this medium sized carnivore are unique and these creatures are very common in this forest.
I have since brought the cam home and replaced the board with a Snapshotsniper SSII #5 board and it is now ‘rocking and rolling’. Look forward to checking both cams in a couple of weeks and I’m confident there will be some interesting creatures walking past…! Enjoy.
Gaur: Thailand’s magnificent mega-fauna
A truly close call with the largest bovid in the world…!
A bull gaur camera trapped at the trail-head a week before about 100 meters from where I was charged. Probably the same old bull that tried to kill me…!!
About two weeks ago, I hit the jackpot out of all my 48 years in Thai forests. I was alone and it was raining in the Western Forest Complex. I had just set a Bushnell Trophy Cam set to video at a trail-head where I previously got a big bull gaur, a bull banteng, elephant, black leopard, wild dog, tapir, wild pig and barking deer.
As I was walking in to set a few more traps, I saw some fresh gaur tracks and judging from the size, noted it was a big mature bull. I went in a little bit more and decided to turn back as the bush was really thick and it was getting late.
A mature bull banteng on the trail.
I had gone about 50 meters and all of a sudden, a bull gaur no more than six meters away, snorted at me. I snorted back thinking he would run away. In the next moment, this huge beast punched through the bush with its head down in the classic position to hook bad people and throw me into the trees.
I saw the right horn base for a fraction of a second and it took me another fraction of a second to do the only thing possible and that was to drop down to the left flat on my stomach with my head down. The bull jumped over my legs and then circled around to do more business of trying to kill me.
What seemed like a lifetime, I heard him thrashing around breaking saplings and stamping on the ground some 10 to 15 meters away. A second charge was imminent and could be disastrous if he used his hooves to trample me. Only one thing would save me now.
Banteng bull close-up.
I quickly pulled out my pistol (.45-ACP ‘Para-Ordnance’ alloy frame), loaded it and let off a shot in the air all the while still lying down. After the report a few seconds later, the bull high-tailed it crashing off into the forest behind me. WOW, that was a close encounter and truly a heart-stopper. I stayed on the ground for quite awhile to make sure he was really gone.
In all my years in the forest, I have never been this close to a gaur or had the experience of a charging bull. No telling if this old bovid had been shot and wounded previously by poachers, and that he really hated humans. Or was he just an old guy with a bad temper and considered me a threat when I barked back at him. I will never really know how close I came to instant death…!
Many a Thai hunter has been killed by gaur because they froze in their tracks and just stood there not reacting in time. I have read in several books that the only way to avert death is to drop flat on all fours with your head down, or to have a very large caliber rifle (minimum .458 caliber) on ready. I had a Nikon D7000 and a 70-300 VR lens. I was lucky to be packing a sidearm..!!
A black leopard close-up.
How did I react so fast and survive? I have one man to thank. He is my dear old friend Gordon Young, author of the book ‘Tracks of an Intruder’, a classic tome about hunting in northern Thailand in the 1950s. He talks about the evasive action needed in this urgent situation in a chapter about a man-killer bull gaur in Mae Salak in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. I certainly thought of him right after this…!
I feel extremely lucky to have survived this attack and it was absolutely the most exciting experience that I have ever had, bar none! I have been two meters away from a black leopard just outside my blind, and that did not even hold a candle to this charging solitary bull. I certainly did not have time to take a photo.
Maybe being born under the star ‘Taurus’ (May 19th) had something to do with it, or maybe the ‘good old spirits’ of the Thai forests took care of me and pushed me down at the right moment. This incident surely has me thanking my lucky star.
Asian wild dog pack out hunting.
Gaur are wild forest ox and the largest bovid in the world standing 1.7 meters at the shoulder weighing close to a ton for mature bulls with a distinctive dorsal ridge and a large dewlap, forming a very powerful appearance. Cows are only about 10cm shorter in height, but are more lightly built and weigh 150 kilograms less.
These beasts have stout limbs with white or yellow stockings from the knee to the hoof. The tail is long and the tip is tufted to ward-off biting insects. Newborns are a light golden color, but soon darken to coffee or reddish brown. Old bulls and cows are jet black but south of the Istamas of Kra, some take on a reddish hue.
All bovine share common features, such as strong defensive horns that never shed on males and females, as well as teeth and four-chambered stomachs adapted to chewing and digesting grass. Their long legs and two-toed feet are designed for fast running and agile leaping to escape predators. They are gregarious animals, staying in herds of six to 20, or more. A large herd of 50 was recorded in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary but that was a long time ago.
Wild boar in the morning.
Due to their formidable size and power, gaur has few natural enemies. Tiger, leopard and Asian wild dog packs occasionally attack unguarded calves or unhealthy animals, but only the tiger has been reported to kill a full-grown adult. Man is their most dangerous adversary.
These herbivores graze on grass but also browse edible shrubs, leaves and fallen fruit, and usually feed through the night. They also visit mineral licks to supplement their diet. During the day, they rest-up in deep shade.
A male muntjac (barking deer) with a serious wound on its hind quarter.
Gaur still survive in some protected areas but are in serious decline. It is now estimated that maybe 1000 remain in Thailand. However, some reserves where gaur are breeding in fairly good numbers allowing them to actually increase in number if there is adequate protection.
These enormous beasts live in herds but also become solitary, primarily the males. But I have also seen and photographed several mature females by themselves. Mineral deposits play a very important role in the lives of these wild cattle as does thick forests and steep mountainous terrain with abundant water resources. Their future depends whether they are protected to the fullest extent. Unfortunately, their beautifully curved horns are highly sought after by poachers and people who covet trophies.
A unarmed researcher a day before the big gaur passed by.
Budgets, better funding, more rangers and personnel are needed now. Transparency is a must with the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries so money is used properly and efficiently, and corruption stamped out completely. Now that will be a tough nut to crack. It is hoped this draconian situation will change, so the Kingdom’s natural heritage and the majestic gaur will continue to survive in today’s world.
Additional photos of gaur:
My first encounter with a bull gaur some 15 years ago.
The older bull being chased by a younger one.
Another old bull gaur at a waterhole.
A single gaur cow at a mineral deposit.
Gaur herd including a bull, cows and three calves.
A gaur herd including two banteng in Kui Buri National Park.
A bull gaur track on the right and cow track above.
A neat trail cam: Sony P41/Snapshotsniper SS board/Pelican 1040/2 AA externals by Trails End
Last week, I visited my old buddy Suthad Sappu, a forest ranger in Kaeng Krachan National Park down in southwest Thailand along the border with Burma. We worked together along the Phetchaburi River deep in the interior of the park for some 10 years back during the 90s, and we got many tigers and leopards on camera trap plus loads of other cryptic creatures like elephant, tapir, gaur, bear (both species), fishing cat, banded palm civet, banded linsang and many more.
As we were chit chatting over dinner and drinks about our favorite subject, camera trapping, Suthad pulled out a very nice camera trap from his bag. It is a homebrew that was made up by ‘Trails End’ using a Sony P41/Snapshotsniper SS board/Pelican 1040/2 AA externals. It is very well built and looks new, and is unused. The case and eyebolts are dipped in a woodland type camouflage.
He says I can have it if I can get it working. Took me a few minutes with some fresh batteries and reset the date on the Sony. Flipped the toggle switch down and it fired up, and was working normally in a few minutes. I said thank you very much and smiled.
He has two more and I said I could get them going too. Does anybody know who ‘Trails End’ is and are they still in business? They certainly do very good work. I’ll be taking this cam along with a Bushnell Trophy Cam to India on April 3rd after tiger. The lodge I’m staying is reported to have leopards walking through the camp. Can’t wait to get there.
Some days are better than others….especially when a nice trail cam comes your way for free…!
Odd-toed ungulates and other fauna in Western Thailand
Some 40 million years ago, the tapir evolved and was found on many continents including North America. These creatures are now thriving in only two areas of the world: Southeast Asia has one species and South America three. The Asian tapir is the largest and have a very distinct two-tone black and white color pattern that acts like natural camouflage, especially at night where the black breaks up its outline. These odd-toed ungulates are now becoming quite rare due to poaching for their meat, and encroachment in tapir habitat.
A young tapir with a distinct ear marking on a wildlife trail
Another more mature tapir a week later
A female tapir at another cam
Other animals caught in this series include elephants, gaur, sambar stag and doe, wild pig, sun bear, porcupine and red jungle fowl.
Elephants pose for the cam
These creatures were camera trapped using three homebrew cams: a Sony P43/BFOutdoors/1040/C externals, a Sony S600/BFOutdoors/1040/C externals and a Sony S600/Yeticam/alloy box.
Gaur also came through
These cams were setup by a wildlife trail and a waterhole deep in the interior of Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary and left for one month during January to February 2013.
Sambar stag and doe
This place is simply amazing with Asian forest ecosystems thriving today that once almost completely covered most of Thailand. In one century, humans have overcome most of the country except for a few places.
Asiatic sun bear
Throughout the Kingdom, the once large tracts of forests are now sliced-up and wildlife has disappeared. Huai Kha Khaeng remains the shinning star of Thailand’s natural legacy going back to the dinosaurs and before…!
Sambar at a waterhole
Red jungle fowl
I now have setup my Canon 350D DSLR with three flashes on this trail. I’m hoping for some good shots with this rig and will be posting these sometime at the end of March.
Creating wildlife conservation awareness through photography
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.