Posts Tagged ‘porcupine’

Nikon D700 trail cam set

Monday, July 29, 2013 posted by Bruce 5:25 PM

Creatures on the log: A giant rodent, a pitta and an eagle

Not much passed over the dead tree last month but I did get a few interesting creatures that stopped by. The Nikon D700/35mm lens/ML-3/Pelican 1150 with three Nikon SB-28s worked very well. An Asiatic porcupine crossed over, and a blue-winged pitta and then a changeable hawk-eagle with prey landed on the log. Due to the 35mm lens, it seems a bit wide with the full-frame sensor and had to crop these images. I will be putting a 50mm when I get back to the unit next month…in the meantime, the cam is working very well and looking forward to those big cats with stripes and spots….!


Blue-winged pitta

Changeable hawk-eagle with prey (feathers already plucked)

Changeable hawk-eagle’s departure

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First published in October 2003

Just a three-hour drive southwest of Bangkok, along Phetchaburi province’s border with Burma, lies Kaeng Krachan – Thailand’s largest national park, encompassing 2,915 square kilometers of mostly tropical broad-leafed evergreen and mixed deciduous forests. In the interior live tigers, leopards, elephants, gaur, tapir and many other amazing species. Even the rare Siamese crocodile still lurks in one of the park’s watercourses. Kaeng Krachan is one of the country’s least touched forests.

Black Leopard phase

Black Leopard phase

Prior to the government ban in 1989, logging was carried out in the lowland areas of Kaeng Krachan. Timber cutters cut an 18km road into the interior from Sam Yot Mountain to transport logs from the concession areas. When logging ceased, the Royal Forest Department extended the road another 18km to Phanern Thung Mountain to facilitate visitors to Thor Thip Waterfall.

Kaeng Krachan became a popular destination, with thousands of visitors each year. But too many visitors ruined some areas in the park. Wild creatures, especially mammals, faded into the more inaccessible areas and were not often seen along the road.

In October of 2002, two back-to-back violent tropical rainstorms hit Kaeng Krachan, overflowing the park’s streams and rivers, and inundating much of Phetchaburi province. Five local villagers, along with homes, vehicles, and livestock, were swept away in the worst flooding in more than 40 years. Blame for the flash floods was placed on excessive logging of the past.

Road washed out

Road washed out

There was extensive devastation inside the park as well. Floods washed away many sections of the main road, and more than 50 landslides uprooted trees and blocked access by tourists. The National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (DNP) has to wait for funds to repair the road, and this takes time. That ended the flow of people in their noisy vehicles, and the wild creatures began to use the road in their search for food and water.

Yellow phase leopard in the interior

Yellow phase leopard in the interior

For the last few years I have worked with the RFD and later the DNP, to carry out infrared camera-trap surveys in Kaeng Krachan to monitor large and small mammals. Some exciting photographs have resulted. Tigers and leopards, both in black and yellow phases, have come into almost every camera trap. The big cats are also surviving in overlapping territories in quite a few areas, especially along the Phetchaburi River, and along the road close to the ranger station on Phanern Thung Mountain.

Indochinese Tiger camera-trapped

Indochinese Tiger camera-trapped

Last January, more than three months after the storms closed the road, was a great opportunity to camera-trap. Four camera-trap units were placed at Kilometres 31, 32, 33 and 35, and the units started photographing almost immediately.

Tigers and leopards were now using the road to hunt day and night, and creatures like the very rare Fea’s muntjac were also caught on film. Other animals such as Asian wild dogs, black bears, large Indian civets, leopard cats, common muntjac and porcupines were also camera-trapped.

Feas muntjac camera-trapped

Fea's muntjac camera-trapped

One of Kaeng Krachan’s biggest advantages (from the animals’ viewpoint) is that the rainy season makes its interior inaccessible. It is almost impossible to move in and out of the main Phetchaburi watershed area when the river is swollen by heavy rains, meaning from June to October. At present, the river is a raging torrent and only professional rope handlers could possibly hope to cross. And this doesn’t mention the leeches, which are everywhere.

Without human interference, the wildlife of Kaeng Krachan lives in total peace. The ecosystem rejuvenates itself.

An example: The staff at the national park headquarters decided to close an old logging road about 12km from the main gate at Sam Yot, securing it with a steel pipe barrier. No vehicles were allowed to enter this 9km road, which leads to important Huai Mae Sariang watershed. After about a month, I set 10 cameras along the road and nearby mineral licks. Tigers, leopards, elephants, gaur, sambar, serow, common muntjac, civet cats and porcupines made an appearance.

At one camera, four different leopards, three in yellow phase and one in the black phase, were camera-trapped. The next month, a mature leopard was caught at midday, and after that, a huge male tiger (shown in the main photograph) was captured on film. The road is now used mainly by wild creatures and forest rangers on patrol and in many places, the forest on either side has grown together.

The DNP should be commended for cleaning up the park while the road was closed. At Ban Krang ranger station alone, they collected hundreds of rubbish bags full of trash thrown into the bush by visitors.

The department has also set new regulations for visitors. Other than the headquarters area down the mountains, camping is allowed only at Ban Krang. Only day trips to Phanern Thung and Thor Thip waterfalls are allowed, and a forest ranger must accompany the visitors.

Without doubt, these measures will help Kaeng Krachan’s natural ecosystem. Due to the recent heavy rains, the park is closed once again until the beginning of the dry season next month.

These camera-trap programs have barely scratched the surface of the park’s full potential. There are still many species that surely survive in the interior. Further research and surveys should be carried out by the department to determine the diversity of this great forest.

Photo captions: The tiger, the leopard and the Fea’s muntjac are just a few examples of predators and prey that venture out on the park’s road while it is closed to tourists. Since last year, violent storms have torn up many sections of Kaeng Krachan’s main road, cutting human access to the forest’s interior.

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