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Archive for May, 2020

FRONT JACKET – A young goral kid in Doi Inthanon National Park near the summit of the Kingdom’s highest mountain in Chiang Mai province, Northern Thailand.

BACK JACKET – The Emerald Pool in Khao Phra Bangkram Wildlife Sanctuary in Trang Province, Southern Thailand, and home to the rarest bird in Thailand; the Gurney’s Pitta.

INSET: BACK JACKET – The Gurney’s Pitta in Khao Phra Bangkram Wildlife Sanctuary. Unfortunately, as of this posting, these wonderful avian creatures are now officially extinct in Thailand. Some may be lingering on in nearby southern Myanmar (Burma).

FRONT ENDPAPER: Thailand 130 million years ago.

BACK ENDPAPER – Sunset and lightning in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Phetchaburi province.


Page 2-3

Common Shelduck in Bueng Boraphet Non-hunting Area in Nakhon Sawan province. This duck species is a rare winter visitor.

Page 4-5

Green Bee-eaters at sunset in Mae Hia Agricultural Research Station in Chiang Mai province. These colorful birds are found in many parts of the Kingdom. They feed on bees and other insects caught in flight by hawking. 


Published in 2004:

WKT Publishing Co., Ltd

102/32 Soi Ronnachai, Setsiri Road, 

Phayathai, Bangkok 10400, Thailand 

Tel:(66-2) 619-6774 Fax:(66-2) 619-6775



Distributed in Thailand:  

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5 Sukhumvit Road Soi 61

Bangkok 10110, Thailand 

Tel:(66-2) 715-9000, 714-0740

Fax:(66-2) 381-1621, 391-2277



Photography, text & design: 

Copyright © 2004 L. Bruce Kekule

Consulting Editor: 

The late Hardy Stockmann 

Text Editors:

Ben Davis

Jim Pollard

Proof Editor:

Pongpet Mekloy

WKT Publishing Directors:

Puangpayom Kekule

Marguerite Dalal

Tipp Dalal

Paper supplied:

Advance Agro Public Co., Ltd

Bangkok, Thailand

Reproduction & Printing:

2004 – 1st Edition: Sirivatana Interprint Public Co., Ltd, Bangkok, Thailand

2006 – 2nd Edition: Phongwarin Printing Ltd. Bangkok, Thailand

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying recording or otherwise, without prior permission from:

WKT Publishing Co., Ltd

For information about reproduction, contact WKT Publishing Co. Ltd

ISBN — 974-92327-7-1

Page 6-7

A Gaur bull entering a mineral deposit in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kachanaburi province along the western border with Burma. They are the largest bovine in the world standing 1.7 meters at the shoulders and large mature bulls can weigh close to a ton. These even-toed ungulates are very shy.


Foreword    9                                                 

The Creatures of Nature    10

Thailand’s Mesozoic Vertebrates    52   

Submarine of the Jungle    68

Vanishing Asian Giants    80

The Brink of Extinction    90

The Lonely Crane Incident    100

Wildlife Candid Camera    114

Goats in the Mist    128

Deer in Jeopardy    144

Bulls, Cows and Calves    160

Big Cats in Kaeng Krachan    180

Carnivores of the Phetchaburi River    198

Perils of Wildlife Photography    208

Wildlife in Danger    218

Bibliography    223

Photograph Index    224

Acknowledgements    227

Page 8-9

Sunrise at Mae Lao – Ma Sae Wildlife Sanctuary in the northern province of Chiang Mai. Mon Liem, a granite massif in the northern part of the sanctuary is home to a small herd of goral. Other rare creatures like the Hume’s pheasant, Ultramarine flycatcher and Asian Wild Dog thrive here.


Thousands of plants and animals will become extinct in the 21st Century. The world loses some 60,000 species every year to extinction. This situation is unacceptable and unforgivable.  

Persistent human encroachment into wilderness is a prime reason for this tragedy. As the human population explodes, expansion into protected reserves is nearly unstoppable. Interlopers takeover land where wild animals live. Forests are transformed into tourist attractions, agricultural land, golf courses and resorts. Wildlife disappears forever. 

The importance of protecting and saving the Kingdom’s remaining forests and wildlife is critical. The key to success in preserving nature is to create awareness at all levels of society. Do your part to help Mother Nature and she will reward you.

L. Bruce Kekule

Thailand 2004

The Creatures of Nature:

An introduction to the Kingdom’s natural history

Page 10-11

Forest Crested Lizard in Sai Yok National Park. These beautiful ground dwelling reptiles are common here, and hunt earthworms and other creatures in the leaf litter.

Life has been evolving on earth for thousands of millions of years. Evolution is the supreme mechanism which continues relentlessly. New species are created by natural selection, Darwin’s chilling insight. Cataclysmic changes are a regular occurrence on Mother Earth.

For all of its ability, intelligence and technology, the species Homo sapiens still remains largely powerless against the forces of nature. Lightning, volcano’s, hurricanes, cyclones, tornados, floods, typhoons, drought, earthquakes and meteor strikes are uncontrollable and unstoppable by any means. As the planet passes through time, natural selection will inexorably generate new species. 

Mother Earth hosts a truly wondrous array of animals and plants, each with its own niche. Some have taken to the air, some to the land and many stayed in the sea. Insects, make up three-quarters of all living species and are the most numerous of nature’s creatures. There are said to be 200 million insects for every human being. 

Page 12-13

Goral in Doi Inthanon National Park. These goat-antelope can be seen around ‘Kew Mae Pan’ Nature Trail close to the summit of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain. A small herd of goral still survive in the park.

Today several million species survive on the planet. Hundreds of thousands have become extinct. The dinosaur, surely the most exciting in the popular imagination, survived for over 160 million years before succumbing to the law of survival of the fittest.

To properly showcase the beauty of Thailand’s natural heritage, we need to return to the beginning of life. Earth is now thought to have started evolving about 4,550 million years ago (mya). Because sedimentary rocks have not been found from the first 800 million years, the earliest life forms are lost in the geological record. All that can be said for sure, Earth was an extremely inhospitable place during this time of evolutionary change.

Page 14

Elephants camera-trapped at a mineral deposit in Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province. The park is about two hundred kilometers southwest of Bangkok. The forest and its biodiversity is still fairly intact, and the park supports about 200 wild elephants.    

During the Archaean eon (4,550-2,500 mya) very primitive life forms appeared and by 3,500 mya began to photosynthesize and increased oxygen in the atmosphere. These first life forms were single-celled creatures known as cyanobacteria (blue-green algae).

The Proterozoic eon (2500-543 mya) brought dramatic changes to Earth.  At the beginning of this eon, the only living things were bacteria, but by its end there were multicellular plants and animals, all in the sea. Together, the Archean and Proterozoic known as the Precambrian or ‘hidden life’ taking up 90 percent of Mother Earth’s time clock.

The Phanerozoic eon followed and is also known as ‘visible life’ including the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras. This eon has produced multi-celled organisms that have dominated life on earth.  

Page 15

Gaur bull entering a mineral lick in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary along the western border with Burma. They are the largest bovine in the world standing 1.7 meters at the shoulders and can weigh close to a ton. These even-toed ungulates are shy and hard to see in the forest due to acute senses of hearing, smell and eyesight, and this bull is in his prime.

In early Archean times, a huge global ocean covered most of the planet. Earth’s first continents were small and evolved from volcanic rock. These islands assembled into proto-continents on tectonic plates that moved across the globe. Continental fragmentation and reassembly took place, and ancient outlines are not certain.

These early continents came together into one and at the start of the Triassic period, Pangea the ‘supercontinent’ formed with Laurasia in the north, and Gondwana in the south. There was only one ocean; Panthalassa. Pangea stayed stable throughout this period but by Early Jurassic, began breaking up. By the end of the Cretaceous, the continents assembled into the world we know today. 

Earth during the Triassic Period

Thailand is formed by two continental blocks that drifted from Gondwana during the Late Devonian-Carboniferous and then collided joining together in the Late Permian-Triassic. The ‘Indochina’ block is in the east, and the ‘Shan-Thai’ or ‘Sibumasu’ block is in the west and peninsula. These two blocks drifted north and then eventually collided with what is now South China in Late Triassic-Early Jurassic.                        

Southeast Asia and its continental blocks

Many mesozoic vertabrate fossils have been discovered in the Kingdom found mainly on the Khorat Plateau in Khon Kaen, Kalasin, Chaiyaphum and other northeastern provinces. Sauropod dinosaur fossil bones have recently been discovered in the northern province of Phayao and Krabi in the south. Cenozoic fossils have also been unearthed in abundance from lignite mines in the Krabi basin and the northern provinces of Lamphun, Lampang and Phayao.

Page 16

Banteng at a water hole in Huai Kha Khaeng. This mature bull was chasing after a herd during the breeding season. He was very alert for any sign of predators like leopard, tiger or wild dog, and did not stay long. A quick moment in the life of Thailand’s beautiful wild cattle that have become quite rare due to poaching pressure and encroachment.

An enormous array of animals still survive in the Kingdom. Thailand’s geographic position in the heart of Southeast Asia and its varied habitats have gifted the country with an astonishing wealth of biological diversity. The country possesses many different types of wilderness, from seabed to coastal mudflats, from mangrove swamps and lowland evergreen rainforest to montane evergreen pine forest. Luckily, the country’s flora and fauna is well documented. 

The Kingdom has recorded some 289 species of mammal, over 1000 bird species, 313 reptile and 107 amphibian species, and many thousands of insect and plant species. An infrastructure of more than 207 protected areas divided into national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, non-hunting areas, and marine parks guard these rich natural resources. The magnificent Huai Kha Khaeng and Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuaries in the west have been bestowed World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in recognition of their biodiversity in wildlife. The eastern Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Cpmplex is now also a World Heritage Site as of 2005.

Page 17

Wild Water Buffalo in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. This young bull was part of a herd of twelve buffalo that just visited the river to drink and cool off during the mid-day heat. They are quite rare with about 50 individuals surviving in this World Heritage Site.

The world’s smallest flying mammal, Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, lives in caves along the western border with Burma. A miniature nocturnal animal no bigger than a human thumb, it is also known as the ‘bumblebee bat’. Sadly, Kitti’s hog-nosed bat is critically endangered because of encroachment and capture for the illegal trade in stuffed animals sold along the streets in cities that have tourists. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the Asian elephant is, Thailand’s largest terrestrial mammal. These giant creatures prefer to live in deep forest far away from human beings. The wild elephant have declined over their range and it is estimated that 2,000 or more remain in the larger national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.                                                                 

Some 2,600 domesticated elephants live throughout Thailand. Unfortunately, many are abused for the sake of money. Some of these poor creatures are paraded around by their mahouts at tourist centers and major cities selling food to be given to the elephants to make merit. Their future is bleak and only improved protective management can save them.  

Page 18

Indochinese tiger at a hot spring in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. The tiger is the largest cat in the world and sometimes can take mammals as large as gaur and banteng. They are rarely seen in the open and have keen senses to keep them out of harm’s way. These big cars have become rare in Thailand with about 250 found nationwide.

Other mega fauna include gaur, the world’s largest bovine. These forest-dwelling oxen are dark brown to black with white or yellow stocking feet. Living primarily in evergreen forest, gaur is very shy and not easily seen apart from their hoof prints and droppings. In some protected areas gaur can be found alongside banteng, a red colored bovine which prefers open woodland and dry deciduous forest. Both species visit mineral licks to supplement their diets. In Thailand, banteng are more endangered than gaur. Fewer than 500 individuals of each species remain. 

Wild water buffalo are quite rare and survive only in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary which has several small herds with no more than 50 or so individuals. Wild buffalo are much larger and fiercer than domesticated buffalo. All wild bovidae are endangered because of poaching and encroachment of habitat in the protected areas where they occur. Thailand is the only country in the world with three species of wild bovid including cattle, forest ox and wild buffalo.

Tapir, still found in the western forests down to the southern border with Malaysia, are odd-toed ungulates like rhinos. Unfortunately, neither Javan nor Sumatran rhino have been sighted for thirty to forty years. Rhino horn was and still is sought after for Arab dagger handles and for Chinese medicine. These huge beasts vanished from Thailand before any national parks and wildlife sanctuaries were established.

Page 19

Asian Leopard feeding on a sambar carcass close to a ranger station in Huai Kha Khaeng. Both black and yellow phase leopard occur here. This feline species usually feeds on the intestines and buttocks first before devouring the rest, and coming back several times to feed.

Smaller even-toed ungulates of the Kingdom include sambar, muntjac, mouse deer, serow, goral and wild pig. Goral number less than 60 individuals nationwide and are highly threatened. Found only in seven protected areas in the north. Serow still survives in limestone karst mountain areas throughout the country. Both goral and serow are prized by poachers for their meat, horns and bones. 

Sambar, the largest deer in Southeast Asia, is found in some of the larger reserves. Male sambar have large multi-tined antlers. Muntjac, popularly called barking deer, is the most common cervidae species, and it still thrives in many forests. The rare Fea’s muntjac is found only in evergreen forests of the western mountains. All deer are sought after for meat, and antlers used in traditional medicine and as a trophy.

Page 20

Asian Wild Dog hunting along the Phetchaburi River in Kaeng Krachan National Park. Also known as ‘dhole’, this canine species is still surviving very well in this important watershed. They are very efficient carnivores. These dogs were caught by camera trap.

Eld’s deer and hog deer, each once very common in Thailand, is unfortunately extinct in the wild although they are being bred in captivity for reintroduction. The National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department run several programs. Both species have been introduced into Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary in the Northeast. Schomburgk’s deer was endemic to the marsh habitat of the central plains but became extinct in the 1930s due to agricultural expansion. For centuries, Thailand exported millions of deer to other Asian countries like Japan and China. That was one of the main reasons for the extinction of these deer. 

One of the world’s smallest ungulates is the Greater and Lesser Oriental Chevrotain. These delicate mouse deer still live in some forests of the east, west and southern Thailand. Males have no antlers but long fang-like canine teeth much like male muntjac.             

Page 21

Malayan Sun Bear in Kaeng Krachan National Park caught by camera trap. This animal is looking up into the trees for beehives or fruit, or maybe scraching it’s back. Known as the world’s smallest bear, they are identified by a u-shaped mark on the upper chest and neck. These omnivores are ferocious creatures and excellent climbers with long claws.

Tiger still survive but only in very small numbers and only in the larger protected areas rich in prey species such as deer, wild pig and wild cattle. With a massive build, powerful legs, and long muscular torso, the tiger is the world’s largest feline and the only one with stripes. The stripes are like fingerprints and thus no two tigers are exactly alike. This magnificent cat has been extremely persecuted for its skin as a trophy, and for bones and other body parts for the Chinese medicine trade. It is impossible to say exactly how many tigers still survive in the wild in Thailand but 250 is the number accepted by most experts. The future is bleak for the big cat unless its remaining habitat is fully protected.     

The leopard is the second largest cat in Southeast Asia. They come in two color phases – some have a yellow coat with black spots, and the others are melanistic black. Both have spots but on the black phase, can only be seen in certain light. Still found in a few protected areas, they, like the tiger, have been hunted by poachers for their pelts and bones. The Asian sub-species are slightly smaller than the Indian or African leopard. Leopards survive better than tiger close to human settlements because they are largely nocturnal and because prey species are mostly smaller. The total population of leopard in the Kingdom is not really known.

Large Indian Civet in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. These beautifully marked carnivores feed on small animals but also eat fruit, and thrive close to villages as scavengers and poultry thieves.

Smaller cats include the clouded leopard, golden cat, fishing cat, flat-headed cat, jungle cat and leopard cat. As with the larger felines, most are now very rare, with the exception of the leopard cat that is still found in most forests. All wild cats are in serious decline due to human population growth and habitat loss.

The most social of all carnivores is the Asian wild dog, also known by the Indian word ‘dhole’. Preying mostly in large packs on large herbivores, they are very efficient hunters devouring skin, bones and all. Wild dog normally do not eat carrion like their smaller relative, the Asiatic jackal. Both species survive in many areas as long as there are prey species in good abundance. Wild dogs tend to thrive where the tiger and leopard have vanished, taking advantage of the void left by the cats’ disappearance from many forests. 

Page 23

Smooth-coated Otter in Kaeng Krachan. This lone male romped about playing in the sand but did not stay for long. An old Siamese crocodile also lives here in the pond and showed up about an hour after the otter had left. A great day on the Phetchaburi River.

Two bear species are found in Thailand:  the Asiatic black bear and the Malayan sun bear. Both of these omnivores have been hunted for their paws, gall bladder and bile, rendering them very endangered throughout their range. The sun bear, the smallest bear in the world at about 27-65 kilograms, has a U-shaped mark on the upper chest and neck. Black bears are considerably larger at 65-150 kilograms and carry a V-shaped mark, also on the upper chest. Both species are omnivorous, eating both plants and small animals. The bears eagerly seek bee hives and will claw trees apart for the honeycomb inside.

Page 24

Muntjac at a mineral lick in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in western Thailand. Also known as barking deer for the loud bark they make when a predator is detected. This male came in early morning for a drink. These small deer are still found in many forests in Thailand, but are poached mainly for their meat.

Smaller carnivores include otter, civet, linsang, yellow-throated martin, badger, weasel and mongoose. The largest civet is the binturong, which looks like a small bear. The slightly smaller large Indian civet is very beautifully marked. Four otter species are found here and the largest is the smooth-coated otter, found only in a few protected areas in Thailand. Small carnivores have been drastically reduced by loss of habitat and poaching. 

Page 25

Sambar Stag at night near a guard station in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. This mature deer was a resident around this area and was seen almost every night. Male sambar is sought after for their trophy antlers and meat. 

Primates started evolving in Thailand about 35 mya during the Eocene epoch, when mammalian evolution accelerated. The order Primate includes lemurs, lorises, monkeys, gibbons, apes and humans. This diverse order consists of about 13 families and some 52 genera, and is the largest mammalian order. Also known as simians or simiiforms, the sub-order Anthropoidea is comprised of New and Old World monkeys, including apes and humans.    

Page 26

Sambar doe taking a drink at a hot springs in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. This ungulate lived close by and came to this water hole almost daily. These deer are preyed on by tiger, leopard and Asian wild dog.

Several fossils of flying lemur and apes have been found in Krabi, Phayao and Nakhon Ratchasima provinces by Thai and French scientists. This has changed ideas about the evolution of anthropoids in Southeast Asia. 

Some scientist now conjecture that hominoid primates evolved in Asia, possibly in parallel with Africa. A faunal dispersal corridor is believed to have existed between Southeast Asia and Africa during the Middle Miocene. Homo erectus has been found both on the island of Java and in China. Many new hotly debated theories have erupted within scientific and academic circles.  

Wild Pig at a mineral lick in Huai Kha Khaeng. This solitary boar had been wallowing in mud close by during mid-morning. These ungulates are still fairly common here but are poached for their meat.       

A very important find by palaeontologist Dr Yaowalak Chaimanee of the Department of Mineral Resources in 2003 in a lignite mine in Chiang Muan district of the northern province of Phayao was the fossilized teeth of a hominid primate aged between 13.5 to 10 million years old. The ape was first named Lufengpithecus chiangmuanensis and is related to the orangutans but it has latterly been reclassified as Khoratpithecus chiangmuanensis, all because of an amazing new discovery in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Page 27

Asian Tapir camera-trapped in Kaeng Krachan National Park. This is the largest tapir species in the world and their two-tone coloring is natural camouflage breaking up their outline at night and even during the day in dark evergreen forest.

In 2004, a new species of orangutan ancestor about 7-9 million years old was found when fossils were dramatically uncovered on the Khorat Plateau in Nakhorn Ratchasima province and Thailand once again found itself on the world’s palaeontological map. The new ape was named Khoratpitithecus piriyai (ape from Khorat) after Piriya Vachajitpan, who played a major role in the discovery deep in the Tha Chang sandpits of Chalerm Phrakiat district. The lower jawbone and teeth have a U-shaped dental arcade similar to that of the living ape – and of human beings. This fossil dates from way before human evolution in the region began and has been found nowhere else in the world.

Page 28

White-handed Gibbon in Kaeng Krachan National Park. This primate was spotted in late afternoon at the end of the road (Kilometer 36) past Phanern Thung Ranger Station. They are still quite common around the interior of this protected area and their call in the morning as the sun comes up is magical.

Wild primates in the Kingdom include slow loris and various macaques, langurs and gibbons. Many live in the forests of some protected areas. Populations are dwindling, however, as forest habitat is slowly destroyed and unsurped by humans. The future of wild primates is grim. 

Three species of gibbon live in Thailand:  white-handed gibbon, pileated gibbon and agile gibbon. A ‘hybrid’ has been identified where the white-handed and pileated gibbons overlap in forest habitat in the east. If a forest has substantial gibbon populations, it usually means the wilderness is fairly intact. But some suitable forests are becoming as rare as the animals themselves as the deadly tandem of encroachment and poaching spread throughout the wild primate range. 

Crab-eating Macaque troop along the Mae Nam Lo River deep in the interior of Sai Yok National Park. Also known as ‘long-tailed macaque’. They are the most common of the five species of macaque in Thailand.     

Gibbons spend their entire life in the trees. Their whooping call can be heard over long distances and can erupt at any time during the day or night. Gibbons often start calling at 4:00 in the morning in some forests and they usually quiet down after mid-morning, although they will sometimes vocalize in the afternoon. Gibbons are very active as the sun rises, usually congregating in fruiting trees. The white-handed gibbon, the most common, is found in most forests while the pileated gibbon survives only in the east. Agile gibbon live in a small pocket in the south near Malaysia.

Page 30

Pig-tailed Macaque in Khao Yai National Park alongside the road near the headquarters. These primates beg for food from passing motorists which have habituated them. They come right up to the vehicle and grab food before running off into the forest. They sometimes become quite aggressive and have bitten unsuspecting people who believe they are doing good. They have very long fangs and a bite can become quite severe.

Four species of langur, also known as ‘leaf monkeys’ share the same predicament as gibbons: Phayre’s, banded, silvered and dusky or ‘spectacled’. All have slender bodies and limbs, with a tail longer than the head and torso. Langur species range widely in coloring: black, gray, dark brown to reddish with some individuals albino. Langurs are eagerly hunted for their meat, blood, and for gallstones, which are valued in Chinese medicine. These nimble acrobats live in trees but do descend to the ground to eat fallen fruit and to drink water. 

Page 31 – Photo by: Saman Khunkwamdee

Dusky Langur in Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park alongside the road near the headquarters. Also known as ‘spectacled’ langur, they are found in a wide range of habitats from montane to coastal forests, and even some offshore islands in the peninsula of Thailand.   

Five species of macaque are found in Thailand: Assamese rhesus, stump-tailed, pig-tailed and crab-eating. Macaques are the most common wild primate, and some species live near or even within cities, usually associated with Buddhist temples where they have become habituated. Some species live in steep limestone hills and cliffs abounding human settlements. On the road near the headquarters at Khao Yai National Park, pig-tailed macaques beg for food from passing motorists. People who feed these creatures often receive serious bites.

Large Bamboo Rat in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. They prefer secondary growth with large stands of bamboo, where they dig extensive burrows with their feet and teeth. They are often heard digging underground.

Page 32

Common Treeshrew on a wild banana blossom in Huai Kha Khaeng. These insectivores also eat spiders, fruit, seeds, buds, lizards, and even other small rodents.

Stump-tailed macaques are the largest and the fiercest of the five species, living mostly in deep forest far from humans. Males have huge fangs and can inflict terrible wounds. Primarily terrestrial, these monkeys forage for food on the ground and rarely climb trees, although they have been seen in forest canopy, most often when fleeing poachers and gunfire. Now rare in the wild, stump-tailed macaques are found only in a few protected areas.   

Page 33

East Asian Porcupine in Kaeng Krachan National Park near Ban Krang ranger station. These nocturnal creatures are Southeast Asia’s largest rodent. They are still quite common in most of the top protected areas in the Kingdom. 

Slow loris is the smallest of Thailand’s wild primate species. Nocturnal and arboreal, they inhibit trees of primary and secondary forest and also groves of bamboo. These cuddly balls of fur are seldom found on the ground and are renowned for their deliberate, slow hand-over-hand movement while transversing a tree branch. Slow loris can be seen at night on fruiting trees in some of the best protected areas. Sadly, these vulnerable creatures are sought after for the illegal pet trade.

Page 34

Lyle’s Flying Fox on a tree in a Buddhist temple in Ang Thong district, central Thailand. This species is rare and found only at a few places. Roosting in large colonies, they feed on ripe fruit and can wipe out a farmer’s crop in one night.

Other small mammals found include two species of pangolin: the Malayan pangolin, found all over Thailand, and the Chinese pangolin, living only in the north. Strange looking creatures with scales all over their body, pangolins look like reptiles but in fact are true mammals. (Their scales are composed of the same protein as hair or fingernails.) Pangolins are armed with a long sticky tongue and very powerful claws enabling them to ravage ant hills and termite mounds, consuming up to 200,000 ants in one meal. Being nocturnal, they spend the day curled up in a burrow. When threatened by a predator, a pangolin will wrap its tail completely around its body, locking itself into a ball. Their scales are hard enough to defeat most attackers. Pangolins are hunted for meat, and for Asian medicine and the illegal wildlife leather trade.

Greater Short-nosed Fruit Bat in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. These medium sized fruit bats are wide-ranging and have been recaptured over 90 kilometers away from one capture site. They roost in small groups.   

Page 35

Horseshoe Bat in a cave close to the Mae Nam Noi River in Sai Yok National Park. These insectivorous bats survive in the thousands in this cave. Many have been persecuted by humans using nets to capture them as they fly in and out.     

Rodents form the largest number of mammal species in the Kingdom. The biggest rodent is the porcupine, of which there are two species: the Asiatic brush-tailed and East Asian. Porcupines are nocturnal creatures armed with quills, used mainly for defense against predators. Quills are hair which has evolved into sharp spines. When threatened, porcupines will spread their quills, turn their back and either attack or wait for the predator to move. The quills detach easily and have caused the death of many predators. Tiger and leopard with quills embedded in their face and front paws are often unable to hunt effectively anymore and eventually die. Some big cats have reportedly become man-eaters after having fallen victim to a porcupine’s defense. 

Page 36-37

 Green Peafowl in Huai Kha Khaeng. These amazing birds are thriving quite well in this World Heritage Site. They are the largest, and the most beautiful birds in Thailand with their metallic green color.

 Three species of bamboo rat, burrowing rodents, still survive: large, hoary and bay. Living underground in bamboo clumps, sometimes they can be heard gnawing on the roots below the surface. Sporting long and razor sharp incisors used for both eating and digging, bamboo rats are ferocious little creatures when cornered. Hunted down for the pot, bamboo rats are considered a delicacy by hilltribe people and villagers alike.

Page 38

Black-winged Stilt in Khao Sam Roi Yod. This national park is in Prachuab Khiri Khan province, southwest of Bangkok along the coast. The species nests on the ground in the mud-flats and marshy areas. The chick is only a few days old.

Asian Golden Weaver in Bueng Boraphet Non-hunting Area in Nakorn Sawan province, Central Thailand. Weavers nest in marshy areas close to paddyfields, and rear three to four young.     

Page 39

Purple Swamphen in Bueng Boraphet Non-hunting Area in central Thailand. This wetland, also home to other water birds like watercock, pheasant-tailed jacana and common moorhen, is under serious pressure from humans.

Thailand hosts 28 species of squirrel and flying squirrel. Found in many different habitats throughout the country, some squirrels are nocturnal and others diurnal, some arboreal and some terrestrial. Most eat fruits and nuts, but some supplement their diets with insects and other small animals. A few squirrel species are mainly insectivorous.

The largest is the Black Giant squirrel, a shy forest species which normally haunts the forest canopy; and only rarely ventures to the ground. Other species include: belly-banded, variable, gray-bellied, Burmese and Cambodian striped tree-squirrels. Flying squirrels, mostly nocturnal, do not actually fly but rather glide from tree to tree. The largest flying squirrel is the red giant flying squirrel, found in forests throughout the country. Unfortunately, squirrels are declining in many areas as they are sought after, both for their meat and for the skin and tail which is used to make trinkets such as key chains.

Great Comorant at Laem Phak Bia in Phetchaburi province. Once common along the Kingdom’s coastlines and waterways, this species has unfortunately disappeared but show-up from time to time possibly from Cambodia. Four vagrant birds arrived at this site in 2004. 

Insectivores are insect-eating mammals including treeshrew, shrew, mole, moonrat and gymnures. Most insectivores are small although the moonrat can attain the size of a domestic cat. The colugo or Malayan flying lemur, found only in the deep south near the border with Malaysia, is an arboreal insectivore with a wing-like membrane used to glide from tree to tree like flying squirrels. 

Page 40

Indian Skimmer at Laem Phak Bia. This lone vagrant arrived here in 2004. It was the third sighting of this rare species in Thailand. It is thought this lonely bird came from the Irrawaddy basin in Burma. 

Bats, the only true flying mammals, are distinguished by ‘hand-wings’ formed from elongated fingers with skin stretched between them. The flying fox, still found in some areas of the South, is the largest bat in the world with a wingspan of up to 1.5 meters. Bat habitat includes city buildings, orchards, forests and limestone caves. The Kingdom hosts 112 species of bat divided into two groups: the fruit bats eating mainly fruit and nectar, and the insectivorous bats which feed on amphibians, mice or smaller bats, and some eat fish. 

Page 41

Ruddy Shelduck at Mae Jo Agricultural Research Station in Chiang Mai. This female arrived in late 2003. The species is a rare winter visitor to the Kingdom. Only a few sightings occur each year.

Fruit bat have large eyes, dog-like faces and short or no tails at all. Fruit bats are important pollinators of many plants including banana, durian and kapok. A group of long-tongued bats specialise in eating nectar from flowers, inadvertently collecting pollen which they transfer to fertilize other flowers. 

Page 42

Japanese Sparrowhawk along the Phetchaburi River in Kaeng Krachan. The species is a winter visitor and can be found all over the Kingdom. These raptors have keen eyesight. This juvenile stayed long enough for only one shot.

Insectivorous bats have small eyes and poor sight but very large ears used both to navigate and hunt down prey using echolocation. Emitting a series of high-pitched squeaks from their noses or mouths as they fly, the sound waves striking prey or an object are reflected back to the bat’s ears, enabling them to navigate in dense forest, catch an insect on the wing, or steer safely in a cave crowded with other flying bats. Despite being an incredibly effective means of naturally controlling insect pests, all insectivorous bats have unfortunately declined as a consequence of habitat destruction, poaching for meat, and the black market trade in stuffed animals.

Page 43

White-throated Rock Thrush at Ban Krang ranger station in Kaeng Krachan. This lone winter visitor came to the national park in 2003 and stayed for many months. This male bird became habituated to humans around the camp-ground and was easily seen.  

Snakes and other reptiles can be found in several types of habitats, from the northern mountains to the southern rainforests and coral reefs. The king cobra, the largest venomous snake in the world, is found in Thailand. They can grow up to almost six meters in length and their venom is a very potent neurotoxin that can easily kill humans. Other poisonous land snakes include cobras, pit vipers and kraits, among others. Extremely vemonmous sea snakes are found both in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. Many non-poisonous snakes also occur: pythons, water snakes, racers, keelbacks, whip snakes, to name a few. Unfortunately, snakes are persecuted because humans as a whole, have an innate fear of the slithering creatures.

Page 44

Asian Brown Tortoise along the Phetchaburi River in Kaeng Krachan National Park. These distinctive reptiles feed on plants along the river. Ticks were found all over this tortoise. 

Other than snakes, Thailand is also home to several other groups of reptiles – the largest are the freshwater crocodiles, but they have disappeared from the wild save a few individuals. Water monitors still thrive as scavengers, even in the canals of Bangkok. Smaller lizards can be found in almost every habitat. Tortoises and turtles occur on land and in waterways. Sea turtles come ashore in southern Thailand to lay eggs. But like in other parts of the world, these ancient reptiles are in serious decline.

Page 45

Hill Frog in Sai Yok National Park. They are predators of insects and other small creatures along forest streams. Amphibians started evolving on Earth about 330 million year ago. 

Masters of the air, birds make up a large portion of wildlife. With over a thousand species recorded, bird-watching is very popular in Thailand. In fact, the Kingdom is one of the top birding destinations on the planet.

Page 46

Common Forest Skink along the Mae Nam Lo River in Sai Yok National Park. These reptiles forage for insects and other small creatures amongst forest litter. They are preyed on by snakes and larger lizards.

Insects number in the thousands and is the largest group of animals in the world. They are found in every habitat except the sea. Some insects are pests and raise havoc with agriculture, households and everyday life. Some are eaten and others exterminated. But they are facinating creatures evolving around us. Some need protection just like the plants and larger animals. 

Page 47

Green Pit Viper devouring a skink in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. Pit vipers are equipped with heat-sensitive organs to help them locate prey. Their fangs fold back against the roof of the mouth except when they strike. Can be deadly to humans if a bit is inflicted far from medical care and is not taken care of quickly.

The Kingdom of Thailand is truly a remarkable place, and its biodiversity second to none. It is hoped the Thai people will make wildlife conservation a top priority. More emphasis should be placed on protecting the remaining wilderness areas and creatures living within. As the human population expands and natural habitat shrinks, the future hangs in the balance. Only quick positive action by people can avert the disappearing beauty we once took for granted.  

Page 48

Blue Crested Lizard in Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary, western Thailand. These colorful lizards are abundant and hunt insects on tree trunks. They change color when alarmed.

Rhinoceros Beetle in Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand. These insects are found in elephant dung, which is their main diet. They also lay their eggs in dung.  

Cruiser Butterfly along a forest stream in Sai Yok National Park. These invertebrates have three body segments, antennae, three pairs of legs and one or two pairs of wings.

Page 49

Bird-eating Spider in Sai Yok National Park. They prey on insects, small birds, rodents and bats. Arachnida started evolving on earth more than 380 million years ago. Spiders are not insects but many people misunderstand this. They have two body segments and four pair of legs but there are a few six legged spider species.

Damselfly in Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary, western Thailand. These delicate creatures are usually found along forest streams where they perch on plants or rocks until they have spotted their insect prey.  

Page 50

Dragonfly in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary close to Burma. These winged predators have been on Earth for some 320 million years from the Late Carboniferous. This one has a striking color pattern like a tiger and was about 2.5 inches long.

Common Rose and Dark Blue Tiger butterflies on the road in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary. They are attracted to urine left by large mammals like muntjac, sambar and gaur.  

Page 51

Hawk Moths mating in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. Male moths use their branched antennae to detect the scent of a female from long distances away. This was a lucky photograph.


Endemic dinosaurs that once roamed on this land

Page 52-53

Theropod footprints in Phu Faek Non-hunting Area, Kalasin province, Northeast Thailand. This is the Kingdom’s best preserved dinosaur trackway found by two school girls in 1996.

Page 54

Theropod Dinosaur Footprint in Phu Faek Non-hunting Area. This track is about 140 million years old, and is Thailand’s most intact dinosaur footprint. The creature that left this print is estimated to have weighed about 2 tons and was the ancestor to T-Rex.

During the Early Cretaceous 140 million years ago in what is now Kalasin province in northeast Thailand, a lone theropod dinosaur walked slowly along a riverbank searching for prey. Herbivorous dinosaurs also inhibited this land and were probably the main diet for the huge carnivore. This solitary hunter walked up-right. Weighing about two tons, it left massive footprints in the sandy banks of the river. Over millions of years, the sand bank eventually solidified but these footprints have miraculously remained intact. This remarkable prehistoric site is one of the Kingdom’s many 
reminders when dinosaurs ruled the land.     

Theropod Tooth from a Siamotyrannus isanensis found in Kuchinarai district of Kalasin province. It is in perfect condition with the serrated edge intact, and is about 130 million years old.       

The Mesozoic (meaning middle life) is also known as the Age of Dinosaurs comprised of three periods: the Triassic ( 248-206 mya), the Jurassic (206-144 mya) and the Cretaceous (144-65 mya). 

Dinosaurs evolved over 160 million years into a myriad of shapes and sizes. While some were the tallest and heaviest animals to ever walk the earth, others were no bigger than a chicken. Hundreds of species adapted to widely different environments. This adaptation contributed to the success and diversification of the dinosaur.   

Thailand has the largest and finest representation of dinosaur fossils in Southeast Asia. The only other fossils in the region are a few small discoveries in Laos. Thai fossils show a close relationship to the Chinese and Mongolian dinosaurs.  

To date, all dinosaur fossils and footprints discovered have come from Mesozoic freshwater sediments, turning into sandstone, clays and limestone. 

One man has undeniably been at the forefront of the discovery of Thai dinosaurs. A walking encyclopedia on the subject, Varavudh Suteethorn is surely Thailand’s top paleontologist and geologist, of  the Department of Mineral Resources. He has found more dinosaur fossils in Thailand than anyone else, and has published scores of scientific papers. Varavudh’s latest find is a stegosaur or ‘plated lizard’ of the Late Jurrasic, and more new species are bound to follow.

Eric Buffetaut and his wife Haiyan Tong of the National Center of Scientific Research in France have worked in a Thai-French project. Considered leading authorities on the identification of Thai dinosaurs, they have published many papers in collaboration with Varavudh. The meticulous work of the Thai-French paleontological team has found some 15 species in Thailand.  

Page 58-59

Huai Hin Lat Formation 220 million years old in Nam Nao district in Phetchabun province, Northeast Thailand.

Page 60

Page 61

Archosaur Footprints on the Huai Hin Lat Formation in Nam Nao district of Phetchabun province. The sharp toes (Page 60) indicate this creature was a predator. Dating back to the Late Triassic period, these footprints are the Kingdom’s oldest trackway. 

In time, Thailand’s dinosaurs range from the Late Triassic to the Early Cretaceous. The first fossil was discovered in 1976 in Phu Wiang National Park in Khon Kaen province. A femur from a sauropod was discovered by Sutham Yamniyom, geologist with the Department of Mineral Resources.

Then teeth from a theropod and several bones from a sauropod of the Early Cretaceous were found in Phu Wiang. (These discoveries come from the Sao Khua Formation, a very productive stratum.)  

Five new species of dinosaur known nowhere else have been found in Thailand. In 1986, Siamosaurus suteethorni, a fish-eating theropod named after Varavudh, was unearthed from the Sao Khua Formation in Phu Wiang. 

In 1992, a small, parrot-beaked herbivorous dinosaur, Psittacosaurus sattayaraki, only about a meter long, was excavated in Chaiyaphum province. In 1994, the largest dinosaur ever found in Thailand appeared. A sauropod of the Early Cretaceous, it was named Phuwiangosaurus sirindhornae after HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who followed the excavation keenly. This giant plant-eater has been found at three sites on the Khorat Plateau. 

Page 62

Fossilized teeth found at Wat Sakawan. These teeth belong to a Phuwiangosaurus sirindhornae from the Early Cretaceous Period, about 140 million years ago. Fossils are very important reminders and proof of dinosaur history in Thailand.      

A carnivorous theropod, Siamotyrannus isanensis was found in 1996. The oldest Tyrannosaur found in the world, it is Tyrannosaurus rex’s earliest known ancestor. The next species from the Northeast is a very primitive sauropod from the Late Triassic, Isanosaurus attavipachi. It is the oldest sauropod found in the world so far. The fact that Thailand’s dinosaur discoveries have often proved to be the earliest example of lineages well known all over the world has led many scientists to believe that quite a few dinosaur species originated in Asia. 

Page 63

Sauropod dinosaur fossil at Wat Sakawan, Sahat Sakhan district in Kalasin province, Northeastern Thailand. This site has seven fossilized skeletons of the sauropod Phuwiangosaurus sirindhornae.

The Kingdom’s single most significant discovery was in 1980 at Wat Sakawan, a Buddhist temple in Sahat Sakhan district, near the city of Kalasin. The temple lies at the foot of Phu Kum Khao hill and the site attracts many visitors all year round. The first fossils were found and kept at the temple. Subsequent excavations by Thai-French paleontologists in the Sao Khua Formation then discovered seven fossilized skeletons of the sauropod Phuwiangosaurus sirindhornae. Several fragments of theropod teeth were found at the same site suggests scavenging on the sauropod carcasses. Theropod teeth were also discovered together with sauropod fossil bones at Phu Wiang. 

In 1996, two schoolgirls spotted two sets of dinosaur footprints in the Phra Wihan Formation at Phu Faek Non-hunting Area in Kalasin province. The two-ton, three-toed theropod dinosaur portrayed at the beginning of this chapter made the clearest and best preserved footprints in Thailand, a total of 21. A smaller set criss-cross the larger set. The prints unfortunately lie in a seasonal stream and are covered with running water during the rainy season. 

In 2003, a set of tracks were found by the Nam Nao Conservation Group in Nam Nao district, Phetchabun province. Villagers told of footprints which they believed had been made by the spirits of the forest. Superstition plays a big part in their lives.  

Page 66-67

Phra Wihan Formation of the Early Cretaceous Period in Phu Faek Non-hunting Area, Kalasin province, Northeast Thailand.

The conservation group contacted Varavudh Suteethorn, who investigated and determined that the tracks had been made on a huge mud flat by an archosaur or ‘ruling reptile’ sometime during the Late Triassic, 220 mya. (This formation is known as Huai Hin Lat.) Over millions of years, the 200 by 250 meter slab somehow remained intact as geological forces thrust it up to a 40 degree angle. There are three separate trackways, and they are the Kingdom’s oldest fossil footprints. Because this important site is situated just outside Nam Nao National Park, it is not in protected land. Like all fossil sites, it needs absolute protection if it is to survive.

The downside of Thailand’s wonderful discoveries is that fossils are in big demand by both local and international collectors, stimulating village people to pillage fossil sites. Some fossils even end up cold at tourist venues as curios. Knowledge of millions of years of evolution is being lost to wanton ravaging of these sites. It is essential that the looting be controlled.                                                                    

Thailand has gained the role of a major dinosaur site, in fact one of the richest in the world. Thai fossils are revealing very important information about Mesozoic dinosaurs in Asia. The joint Thai-French search for fossils continues, and surely new revelations will emerge from the rock stratum to delight paleontologists worldwide. Thailand’s dinosaur fossils are priceless and are truly a tribute to the Kingdom’s natural heritage.


The last wild Siamese Crocodiles in Thailand

Page 68-69

A Siamese Crocodile in Klong Takrow in Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary, Eastern Thailand with a forest fly resting on its bony ridge. 

Two hundred and thirty million years ago, the first crocodiles began to evolve during the Mid-Triassic period of the Mesozoic era. Having branched off from archosaurs or ‘ruling reptiles’ when primitive dinosaur also roamed the planet, crocodilians have changed little in body structure since then. Apart from birds, crocodiles are the only living archosaurs. 

In 1909, J.B. Hatcher discovered a few fossilized bits and pieces of a giant crocodile in Montana from the Late Cretaceous period 80 mya of North America. Deinosuchus was also found in Texas by Barnum Brown of the American Museum of Natural History in New York in the 1940s. The skull of this huge crocodilian is two meters long and body length estimated at more than 10 meters. Sarcosuchus, a 12 meter crocodile, was found in Central Africa from the Early Cretaceous 110 mya by France de Broin and Phillip Taquet in 1966. A huge crocodilian was also found in Brazil by a British geologist, and described by Eric Buffetaut and P. Taquet in 1977 as the same species found in Africa. These ‘super-crocs’ pulled dinosaurs into the water and devoured them.

Page 70-71

Siamese Crocodile in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Southwest Thailand. This individual was photographed in 2003 along the Phetchaburi River deep in the interior. The species is considered the rarest wild crocodilian in the world.  

In 1979 in the northeast province of Nong Bua Lam Phu, Nares Sattayarak, a geologist for the Department of Mineral Resources, discovered the lower jaw of a huge crocodile in a road-cut excavated from the Phu Kradung Formation of the Late Jurrasic 150 mya. Sunosuchus thailandicus was described as a new species by Eric Buffetaut and Rucha Ingavat (also from the Department of Mineral Resources). Estimated to have been at least eight meters in length and with a lower jaw over a meter long, it was Thailand’s ‘super-croc’.  

Crocodilians for most of their 230-million-year history have been large, long-bodied, aquatic carnivores. Armor-plating (in the form of bony scutes set in their hides), extended tails, short strong limbs, and powerful sharp-toothed jaws made them into formidable predators. 

Crocodiles come onto land to defecate and, being cold-blooded, bask in the sun so as to regulate their body temperature. Female crocs come ashore to lay from 20 to 40 eggs in mound nests on land near the water’s edge. These streamlined predators glide through water with ease, surfacing and submerging at will. Man is the mature crocodile’s only enemy, and the wild Siamese crocodile are the world’s most endangered crocodilian species. 

Siamese crocodiles grow broad and heavy. Mature individuals have distinct bony ridges behind the eye socket. Historical records report specimens of up to four meters in length but three meters is presently average for an adult. They feed primarily on fish but also take frogs, small mammals and birds. Undulating their powerful tails while tucking in their legs, crocs can glide through water without making a ripple. Stealthily stalking prey along the water’s edge, in an instant they can snatch their victim in powerful jaws and pull it below to drown it. Some species lay in wait on the bottom of a river or pond in order to grab fish. (Crocs can stay underwater for long periods of time.) Adults can survive a year without a meal and thus are nature’s most efficient predator in terms of consumption in proportion to body size.                                                                                            

Page 72-73

Siamese Crocodile camera-trapped along Klong Takrow in Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary. This individual is the same animal shown on page 68-69. Siamese crocodile hunt mostly fish but also take small birds and mammals. 

Thailand once had three species of crocodile found in a host of enviroments: the sea, estuaries, rivers and marshes throughout most of the country. The most common species was the Siamese crocodile Crocodylus siamensis, a freshwater species. Another freshwater crocodile was the Tomistoma schlegelii, also known as the ‘false gharial’. This thin-snouted crocodile was only found in rivers of the southern peninsula. The estuarine saltwater crocodile Crocodylus porosus, is the largest croc in the world. Also known as the ‘Indo-Pacific’ crocodile, it was very common in river estuaries and islands in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. These huge saltwater crocodiles could even be seen swimming in open ocean. 

The tomistoma and saltwater crocs are probably extinct in the wild in southern Thailand, but, along with the Siamese, they are farmed. The freshwater tomistoma and Siamese can live in the brackish water found in most farms. A fast growing crocodile has been hybridized by cross-breeding the Siamese and saltwater crocodiles. This human creation is the crocodile most often farmed for its meat and hide. 

Siamese crocodile were once very common in Southeast Asia including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos and possibly Burma. Populations throughout the region have declined and exact numbers of wild crocs are not known in any of the range countries.  

Page 74

Klong Takrow in Khao Ang Rue Nai. This river dries up in the winter leaving small but deep ponds. Many species of fish survive in this habitat and are the main diet for the Siamese Crocodile found here.

At the end of World War II, crocodile farming came into vogue in the Kingdom, and wild crocs were captured for breeding stock. Thousands upon thousands were caught in the booming trade. Habitat loss and crocodile farming started the countdown to extinction for these ancient creatures. There were no laws to protect them and the crocodiles was eradicated from every river and swamp in the country. Only the Siamese crocodile survives in a few places in the wild.

Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary in the province of Chachoengsao, is about three hours drive from Bangkok. It was established in 1977 and the protected area, consisting mainly of semi-evergreen forest and many streams, is eastern Thailand’s largest remaining tract of lowland rainforest, with a rainfall of some 3,000-4,000 millimeters a year. 

This wilderness was almost completely surrounded by agricultural land, and squeezed down to the last 1,030 square kilometers before being gazetted by royal decree. Fortunately, enough forest was saved that elephant, gaur, banteng and many other animals have been able to survive so far, including birds such as the black-and-red broadbill and the Siamese fireback pheasant. Khao Ang Rue Nai is home to one of the last wild Siamese crocodiles in eastern Thailand.               

The opportunity to photograph one of Thailand’s rarest animals had been a dream of mine for some time. In January 2001, I erected a photographic blind on the banks of Klong Takrow close to where a croc had been seen basking. 

Page 75 – Photo by: Kitti Kreetiyutanont

Siamese Crocodilein Khao Ang Rue Nai. This mature crocodile was photographed in 1993 by Kitti Kreetiyutanont who did a survey of wild crocodiles in the Kingdom for the Royal Forest Department.

The murky waters of the forest pool lay still and quiet in the mid-morning heat. Now and then a fish catching an insect or a falling leaf would disrupt the mirror image of the pond. A pair of wreathed hornbills croaked nearby while high in the trees, pileated gibbon sang a booming crescendo. It was nature at its best. 

Page 76-77 – Photo by: Kitti Kreetiyutanont

Siamese Crocodile in Khao Ang Rue Nai photographed back in 1993.

Dripping with sweat, I sat hoping to see a crocodile. A slight movement in the water at the far end of the pool caught my eye. A strange but familiar shape surfaced and then submerged, moving closer to its basking spot. Slowly, its eyes and snout rose to the surface. A large forest fly landed on the bony ridge behind its eye to drink the salty secretions from the croc’s eye (Page 68-69). As the reptile checked the surrounding area for danger, I snapped a long series of photographs of Thailand’s most endangered animal. Suddenly, as if sensing it was not alone, the croc submerged and disappeared into the depths of the pool. My dream had come true and 230 million years of evolution had passed through my lens. 

For capturing images of such elusive creatures like crocodiles,  infrared camera-traps is 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. The croc was caught on film many times during a two-week session, the best shot being on page 73. Since Siamese crocs can live for 60-70 years, it is hoped this individual will be in Khao Ang Rue Nai for a long time to come. 

Kaeng Krachan National Park, mostly semi-evergreen forest, is the Kingdom’s largest national park with an area of some 2,915 square kilometers. Probably Thailand’s most intact remaining ecosystem, much was saved from logging by the ban in 1989. The main water course is the Phetchaburi River, which flows down to the Kaeng Krachan reservoir from the Tenasserim Mountain Range staddling the border with Burma. Kaeng Krachan is just three hours drive southwest of Bangkok.

Many species still thrive in the park: elephant, gaur, tiger, leopard, and many more including the Siamese crocodile. In early 2001, park rangers found crocodile tracks along the river and a Siamese crocodile was camera-trapped on a sandbar. A few months later, I found another set of tracks further up-river from the first set. No crocs were sighted at this time, but a population may exist in the interior nonetheless.        

In March 2003, while tending camera-traps along the Phetchaburi River, I found crocodile feces and tracks at the 2001 site where I built a photographic blind across the river. After a two day wait, a mature croc emerged at the deep end of the pool in mid-morning. Fortunately, it was within range of my Minolta 600mm lens and 2X tele-converter. Several rolls of film later, the rare croc submerged and disappeared. These photographs are the first ever through the lens of a Siamese crocodile in Kaeng Krachan.

Both brief encounters will remain etched in my memory for as long as I live. The solitary crocodiles have instilled an urge in me to help these rare creatures – but how?

As of 2004, Khao Ang Rue Nai and Kaeng Krachan are the only known sites where the Siamese crocodile is found – and only one animal is confirmed at each site. In 2003, a female croc with eggs was killed by poachers in Yot Dom National Park not far from Cambodia. Its skull and skin are now on display at the park.      

Page 78

Crocodile Tracks along the Phetchaburi River in Kaeng Krachan National Park. Crocodiles are creatures of habit and come to the same spot to bask and deficate unless disturbed. This river is also home to the otter, fish-eagle and water monitor.

Some old reports suggest that Siamese crocodile may still exist in the northeast in several other protected areas: Pang Sida National Park (Sa Kaeo province) and Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum province). Kitti Kreetiyutanont of the Royal Forest Department, wrote a paper on Siamese crocodile sightings in 1993 and, indeed, photographed the croc at Khao Ang Rue Nai.

The National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department and other organizations should support surveys to see if other crocodiles still exist in Thailand. With only a couple of animals confirmed, action must be taken to ensure their survival. Restocking a few carefully selected sites with yearling Siamese crocodiles seems to be the only solution. But that raises questions about the farmed crocodiles available for release. Have farmed Siamese crocodiles been subject to excessive inbreeding? Even more critical, have they been crossbred with other species? Only good DNA analysis can unravel this intricate problem of the species integrity in captivity.

Page 79

Crocodile Pond along the Phetchaburi River. This waterway could possibly be a reintroduction site in the future for the extremely endangered reptile, but extensive surveys are required to determine if a viable population exis. Only one individual has been photographed and camera trapped here.

Serious efforts are required to save Thailand’s remaining wild crocodiles from total extinction. No matter how many crocodiles are kept in farms, only an intact wild population can save these ancient creatures.

Public access to the Phetchaburi River in Kaeng Krachan and to Klong Takrow in Khao Ang Rue Nai should be limited and strictly regulated. These crocodiles need absolute protection if the species is to continue to survive the dinosaurs. Thailand should serve as a role model for wildlife conservation in Southeast Asia, and the people need to join hands to protect their Kingdom’s natural heritage for future generations. 


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Mountains of the North: Northern

Thailand’s majestic beauty

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Mountains due south of the city of Mae Hong Son, in the northwest corner of the Kingdom, close to the border with Myanmar. There are literally hundreds of viewpoints in the north that offer these majestic sights; mountain after mountain, as far as the eye can see. However, many are sadly deforested.  

Doi Inthanon National Park

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, northern Thailand’s many beautiful mountain ranges and valleys were covered with extensive natural teak forests. These are threaded by sparkling rivers and waterfalls that brought life to the region. Unfortunately, much of the area has since been heavily logged and degraded. Its original pristine beauty now remains primarily in some protected areas, the most important of which are described below:

Doi Inthanon National Park and Kiew Mae Pan Massif in Chiang Mai province, Northern Thailand. This is the Kingdom’s highest national park. The cliff face is home to goral, a goat-antelope that lives on the cliff-face. The larger serow, also a goat-antelope are also seen from time to time.

Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s highest mountain. Rising to 2,595 meters, and is part of the Thanon Thongchai Range that extends south from the Shan hills of Myanmar. Situated southwest of Chiang Mai, this 482 square kilometer national park was gazetted in 1972 and is now one of the most visited parks in the country.

Kiew Mae Pan cliff-face during the early morning in Doi Inthanon National Park. The rugged terrain is what keeps the goral and serow safe from poachers. There is a good-sized herd of goral but serow are rarely seen. Temperatures can drop down to zero degrees Celsius during the wintertime, and it was tough for me in this steep terrain but I was very successful here. I got some wonderful photos of the wildlife.

The park’s geology of granitic batholith enables it to support several different types of forest. The most notable of these is at the peak where the only montane evergreen forest in the country is found. Native pines grow at the moderate to higher elevations and a sphagnum bog exists at the summit, the only one in Thailand. The most important species are the green-tailed sunbird, which is endemic here, and the Himalayan newt (crocodile salamander) found in the bog. 

Siriphum waterfall in Doi Inthanon National Park. There is a camp ground before the national park headquarters where these falls are visible. The protected area gets thousands of visitors every year and can be visited year round.

Doi Inthanon was once under full forest cover and wildlife on the mountain, including elephant and gaur, were very common. Now, however, most of the larger fauna have disappeared. Some smaller mammals like barking deer, wild pig and black bear can still be found, but birds now predominate. Some 383 species of bird have been recorded and Doi Inthanon is one of the top bird-watching sites in Thailand. 

A kid goral in Doi Inthanon about 3-4 months old near the summit. The author was sitting in a blind up on the cliff-face in freezing weather early one morning. This little creature was curious and came very close before going back down. It’s parents had left it to fend for itself but it lived on to see another day. Some very happy moments in my life as a wildlife photographer. One of my greatest achievements.

The influx of hill tribes with their practice of slash and burn agriculture has decimated the forests from 1,500 meters down to the lowlands. First it was the Hmong and then the Karen, Opium was once the Hmong’s main cash crop but has now been replaced by rice, vegetables, flowers, fruit and coffee. The Karen were mainly hunters and gatherers. With an ever-increasing hill tribe population who use modern agricultural techniques and mechanized equipment, this national park, which is also a popular tourist destination, is under serious threat like most protected areas in the country that have people living inside them. It seems that Doi Inthanon may degenerate to the point of no return with an exception for some areas around the peak.  

Serow C. sumatraensis early one morning as the author sat in a photo blind some 100 meters away. It was near zero degrees centigrade and I was freezing while my feet felt like two frozen rocks. This was the first serow I was able to photograph here during the two-years of work around Kiew Mae Pan cliff-face.

Page 133

Sunset, below Doi Suthep-Doi Pui National Park, near the city of Chiang Mai. The pond is part of Mae Hia Agricultural Center, a government facility. Lesser whistling-duck, Chinese pond-heron, white-breasted waterhen and common moorhen are just some of the water birds found here. Also in the area are black-shouldered kite, common kingfisher, white-throated kingfisher and many other smaller species of bird. This agriculture research center is fairly safe from local poachers so the future of birds that live or migrate here is very good even though their numbers have declined over the years.

Doi Suthep-Doi Pui National Park

Sunset over the northern section of Doi Suthep-Doi Pui National Park in Chiang Mai. During the monsoon season, some cloud formations allow for spectacular photos at dusk.

The twin peaks of Doi Suthep and Doi Pui, west of the city of Chiang Mai, rise from the valley floor to heights of 1,601 and 1,685 meters respectively. The 261 square kilometer area was finally gazetted as a national park in 1981. Unfortunately, due to its proximity to the city, it has been extensively logged and poached for everything it contains. Wild orchids, other flowers, mammals and birds have been prime targets. 

Page 134

Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica. This photo was taken in Chiang Mai province near the base of Doi Suthep. These small and delicate birds are not seen that often and their habitat is deciduous woodlands and open scrub country. The male bird appears mostly dark blue-black at a distance. They take nectar and small insects like the other species of sunbird in Thailand.

Page 135

Lesser Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna javanica, also known as lesser treeduck, lifting off from a pond in Mae Hia Agricultural Center, Chiang Mai. Several hundred migrate annually from the north, mostly from China living here during the winter months. They rest during the day and fly off to feeding grounds, usually rice fields, at dusk. Sought after and trapped by villagers, for food and due to the damage they inflict on rice fields, their numbers are dwindling. This decline is likely to continue.

Chestnut-tailed Minla Minla strigula. This photo was taken at the summit of Doi Inthanon National Park, next to the Royal Thai Air Force radar station. They are common up here and can easily be seen, morning and afternoon. They are only to be found in evergreen forests above 1,600 meters. Noisy and gregarious, they feed on insects in treetops and in low herbage. 

Page 136 – Photo by: Amonsak Sriwilai

Red-spot Jezebel Delias descombesi. This butterfly is common here and is taking in nectar from mistletoe by the roadside near the summit of Doi Inthanon

Photo by: Amonsak Sriwilai

Lesser Shortwing Brachypteryx leucophrys. These nesting birds were photographed near the top of Doi Inthanon, feeding its young with what looks like a worm. These skulking inhabitants of the evergreen forest floor are common here from 1,000 to 2,000 meters.

Page 137 – Photo by: Samak Khodkaew

Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis. This beautiful bird is endemic to Doi Inthanon above 1,500 meters and can be seen in the vicinity of the Royal Thai Air Force radar station. From the same genus, its cousin is found in the southern peninsula of Thailand but lacks the scarlet lower breast. Like all sunbirds, they take nectar and insects. They are similar to New World hummingbirds but are less agile in flight and when hovering. 

The park contains two main waterfalls, Huai Kaeo and Monthathan that the locals use for recreation. Several Buddhist temples dot the park, the most famous being Wat Phra Borommathat Doi Suthep which is visited by tens of thousands of local and foreign tourists each year. The road at the top to Phu Ping Palace has been widened and other road surfaces have been improved. Continued pressure on the park from more and more traffic and visitors can only have an adverse effect in the long term. 

Photo by: Amonsak Sriwilai

Hawk Moth Acherontia lachesis. This insect was photographed in Doi Inthanon’s sphagnum bog. With its narrow wings and long stout body, it flies mostly at twilight.     

Page 138 – Photo by: Samak Khodkaew

Giant Atlas Moth Attacus atlas. Photographed in Doi Suthep-Doi Pui National Park in Chiang Mai. It is considered the world’s largest moth and is common throughout Asia in deciduous and evergreen forests.

Photo by: Amonsak Sriwilai

Himalayan Newt Tylototriton verrucosus. Also known as the crocodile salamander, this one was photographed in the sphagnum bog at the summit of Doi Inthanon. This little salamander is the only member of the family Salamandridae found in Thailand. Quite rare, due to collecting by amphibian enthusiasts and medical scientists wanting to learn how it regenerates its limbs, it is found on only a few of the north’s highest mountains.

Page 139

Sphagnum bog. It is situated at the summit of Doi Inthanon National Park, near the radar station. This bog, the only one in Thailand, attracts thousands of visitors every year. A pleasant walkway allows one to view many birds and the rare Himalayan newt along the way.

Photo by: Samak Khodkaew

Rafflesia Sapria himalayana. This one is the smallest of the three species of Rafflesia found in Thailand. On Doi Inthanon, it has become increasingly rare due to habitat destruction and indiscriminate collecting of wild flowers. 

Page 140

Scarlet Wild Ginger Zingiber zerumbet. This one was found at the summit of Doi Suthep. This perennial can be found in most evergreen forests. It announces itself during the rainy season by coming into bloom.

Photo by: Samak Khodkaew

Praying Mantis. This one caught in an extraordinary pose as it reaches for a higher leaf. These carnivorous insects of the Mantis family mimic twigs and branches, blending into their natural surroundings to ambush other insects. Kung fu, the Chinese martial art, in turn mimics the mantis in its many poses.

Page 141 – Photo by: Amonsak Sriwilai

Jumping Spider. They are from the family Salticidueseemingly just having landed from outer space. Its eyes resemble sunglasses. This ferocious looking carnivore could easily intimidate its prey. Creepy-crawlies are everywhere in the forests, some living on intricately woven webs that catch flies and grasshoppers. Others lurk under loose bark and leaves, waiting for dinner to pass by. Most have poisonous bites. Some are deadly.

Stag beetle in Doi Inthanon National Park. This beetle was photographed at kilometre 38 near the road going up to the summit. There are common here in the evergreen forest that covers most of the top of this mountain.

Yellow-cheeked Tit Parus spilonotus with a moth photographed near the road at kilometre 38 in Doi Inthanon. Timing was just right as this male flew away with its prey shortly after this shot was taken.

Common mock viper in Doi Inthanon. I photograph this snake while checking out a camp-sight one day. It was the first snake I saw at about 1,600 meters in the lower valley.

A purple Scarab beetle photographed at the summit of Doi Inthanon near the radar station. The author was walking around the Buddhist shrine when this remarkable insect flew over my head and landed in front of me. Most scarab beetles are black but the colour of this one is really stunning.

Mae Tuen and Om Koi Wildlife Sanctuaries

A goral camera-trapped near the top of the mountain jumping from rock to rock. They can move straight-up and down, and is the way they evade predators. These goat-antelopes used to exist on every mountain top in the north all the way down to Tak province in Mae Ping National Park several hundred kilometres due south of Chiang Mai. It is hoped these amazing creatures will continue to thrive into the future.

Situated in Tak and Chiang Mai provinces respectively, these important contiguous sanctuaries together cover an area of some 2,397 square kilometers. They thus constitute the largest conservation area in northern Thailand. They are bordered to the east by the Mae Ping National Park that is bisected by the Ping river which flows into the Bhumibol reservoir in Tak province. Unfortunately, the reservoir acts as a gateway to the sanctuaries and park by allowing easy access by boat. The locals are allowed to fish the reservoir.

Sunset as viewed from Doi Inthanon toward the south. The Thanon Thongchai Range can be seen and goes on for several hundred kilometres. At this time of the year (winter), the air is crisp and clear and photos are beautiful at this time of the day.

Goral, the goat-antelope, is found here as a small herd of some dozen or so animals on Doi Montjong in Om Koi Wildlife Sanctuary. Unlike the serow, which is found more widely in Thailand, the goral is highly endangered. Its future is grim indeed as many Hmong and Karen hill tribes still live within the sanctuaries, engaging in poaching, encroachment, and slash and burn agriculture.

Eurasian wild pig Sus scrofa. This boar (male) pig was photographed at a waterhole in the Om Koi Wildlife Sanctuary. They need a constant source of water and minerals. Sought after by poachers for their meat.

Mae Tuen and Om Koi is also one of the last sites in the north for elephant. Only a few individuals remain. Gaur and banteng are reported but, as everywhere, their numbers are few. As time marches on, they could eventually disappear from these two sanctuaries that together constitute the largest northern refuge for Thailand’s large mammals.

Other parks and sanctuaries

A goral camera-trapped in Mae Lao-Mae Sae Wildlife Sanctuary, Northern Thailand. It is quite rare to catch one in daylight this close. They are thriving here and the sanctuary is one of 7-protected areas that have them. These mammals get moisture from the grasses, buds and leaves they consume. They are endangered due to poaching by hill-tribe people that consider it a delicacy to give them strength. Their decline along with the serow is an on-going threat to both species.

There are many other areas in the north that have been designated as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and non-hunting areas. Of these, the most notable is Maelao-Maesae Wildlife Sanctuary in Chiang Mai province, another haven for goral; Namtok Mae Surin National Park, and the Salawin and Lum Nam Pai Wildlife Sanctuaries in Mae Hong Son province; Doi Khun Tan and Namtok Chae Son National Parks in Lampang province; Mae Yom National Park in Lampang and Phrae provinces; and Chiang Saen Lake Non-Hunting Area in Chiang Rai. All these and many other sites not mentioned here are under serious threat from the small minority who seem intent on continuing to abuse Thailand’s natural resources for their own benefit. As human populations in the north continue to increase, encroachment into protected areas becomes more difficult to control. The future seems bleak. 

Maelao-Maesae Wildlife Sanctuary located some 60 kilometres north-west of Chiang Mai on the road to Pai and Mae Hong Son. This shot was taken at sunrise just as the sun rose up into the sky, hence the red coloured branches on the tree in the foreground. Below, fog build-up through the night is seen. The temperature was almost freezing. The author spent the night on the peak in order to be in place for this photographed first thing in the morning.

Looking back, trying to apportion blame for the enormous damage that has been wrought would be rather like the pot calling the kettle black. Yet if we could turn the clock back 100 years, and if all those responsible had used careful selective cutting and true conservation techniques, most forests would have been saved. Dwelling on hindsight is thought by many to be a waste of time. Yet hindsight provides us with valuable knowledge, if only we take a little time and trouble to learn from the mistakes made by those who came before us. Using that knowledge today will enable us to save Thailand’s remaining natural treasures for our children in the future.



Beung Boraphet: A non-hunting

area and wetland for birds

Breeding area in Beung Boraphet Non-hunting Area (NHA) in Nakorn Sawan province, Central Plains of Thailand

Page 142

Lotus Nelumbo nuciferais. This is a common sight around the waterways of central Thailand, being found naturally, and cultivated for the seedpod and stems as food. This native water lily floats on water and is home to many water birds, reptiles and amphibian species. There is also a totally white phase. 

Beung Boraphet is the largest bird sanctuary and fresh water body in Thailand. Located 150 kilometers north of Bangkok in the central plains, it lies east of Nakhon Sawan. In former times, this lake was a giant marshland (the Thai word, ‘beung’ means marsh), harbouring many birds and aquatic animals including the Siamese crocodile, no longer seen here, and the white-eyed river-martin, now extinct in Thailand. The reason for some species disappearing is plain and simple — encroachment by man in his everlasting search for food and a livelihood.

Page 143

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollisin. This beautiful water bird was in the central area of the lake. Pale gray-brown most of the year, they turn dark chestnut-red during the breeding season. They are very secretive when breeding and only become bold when the chicks are ready to hatch. These aquatic birds seldom fly, preferring to dive when alarmed. They can stay submerged for long periods of time.

The swamp was dammed by the Fisheries Department before World War II and turned into a fishery that was later drained and dredged to expand the lake. This had a devastating effect on the flora and fauna of the lake. Gathering of aquatic plants and fishing by the inhabitants, now numbering in the thousands, has been permitted by the department, which has a station on the northern shore. Although birds are strictly protected, their numbers have drastically dwindled since the early 1990s. If present conditions remain unchanged, the decline will continue. There are 204-recorded species of bird here!

Page 144

Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus. Photographed near its nest during the breeding season, and showing its elongated tail and colours. These aquatic birds are common residents and winter visitors, and can be seen in many marshy areas in Thailand. They have very long toes that allow them to walk across floating vegetation. The male takes care of the chicks as they grow up while the female is often mating with another male. 

Page 145

Great Egret Egretta alba. This large water bird is lifting off from the central area of the lake. These birds are often seen mingling with little egret, little cormorant and Asian openbill stork. Both resident and winter visitors, they are unmistakable with their large size, kinked neck, yellow bill and black feet. They are uncommon and are seen in only a few reserved areas in Thailand. Once in a while, great egret are seen in open rice fields along Highway 1, north of Bangkok

Page 146

Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger. This is the smallest of the three species of cormorant found in Thailand. They are common residents in the central provinces. Excellent swimmers, they dive beneath the surface to catch fish. They fly in a strong direct line with neck outstretched. These medium-sized birds can be seen perched in the morning with wings held away from the body to dry.

Page 147

Cotton Pygmy-Goose Nettapus coromandelianus and Lesser Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna javanica. The three ducks seem to be ganging up on the single goose which flies away just after the photo is taken. Nature as it actually works, where numbers are used to bully a single opponent! Like all duck and goose, these birds have plump bodies and webbed feet. They are excellent swimmers and fly extremely well.

Beung Boraphet is the largest freshwater wetland in Thailand for resident, passing migrant and wintering birds, and is a very important breeding area. The purple swamphen, pheasant-tailed jacana, yellow bittern, cinnamon bittern, black-crowned night-heron, Chinese pond-heron, lesser whistling-duck, little cormorant, great egret, purple heron and little egret, and many other species, thrive here as residents and can be seen all year round. Cotton pygmy-goose and little grebe are also resident but are much more difficult to observe except during their breeding seasons.

Page 148

Chinese Pond-Heron Ardeola bacchus. This bird is in non-breeding plumage. They are often indistinguishable from the Javan pond-heron out of breeding. These medium-sized water birds are common winter visitors and can be seen all over Thailand. They feed on fish and will wade in shallow water, spearing them with their dagger-like bills. 

The comb duck has mostly disappeared from the area. Wintering birds in their thousands used to be observed from October to March, especially species of duck, coot, heron and some stork. Passing migrants and winter visitors that use the lake include, more than a dozen species of very large bird such as purple heron, grey heron, Asian open-bill stork and spot-billed pelican.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta. They are a very common water bird found throughout Thailand and one of 19 species of egret/heron found in the Kingdom. They can be seen feeding on fish in shallow ponds, rice fields and marshy areas.

Page 149

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis. This bird is in breeding plumage. These gregarious birds normally stay around water buffalo and cattle to feed on insects disturbed by the grazing herbivores. 

Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans. This large stork, a common breeding visitor that returns to Bangladesh during the rainy season. However, many Asian openbill are now resident here in their thousands, nesting in a few large colonies around the central plains, and can be seen morning and evening flying across Highway 1 that runs north from Bangkok. They are among the largest birds here. Of the eight species of stork in Thailand, all of which are highly endangered, openbill are the most numerous. Looking like enormous nutcrackers, their bills are specially suitable to open apple snails and other molluscs for the succulent meat inside. Thai farmers now love them and hardly ever harm or kill them by doing the people a favour by keeping their fields clear of the destructive snails.

Page 150

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis.  This small bird is a common winter visitor but rare resident. This very small bird typically perches on a branch or rock, then plunges after fish and aquatic animals. Like many other kingfishers, after catching a fish and holding it in its beak, it beats its victim until it is subdued enough to be swallowed. 

Page 152

Sunrise at Beung Boraphet Non-Hunting Area. This magnificent sanctuary is the largest freshwater wetland for passing migrant and resident water birds in Thailand. Once upon a time, the freshwater Siamese crocodile lived here. But extreme poaching pressure and the conversion of the marsh into a fishery caused its demise. Another former resident, the white-eyed river-martinreceived its scientific name, Pseudochelidon sirintarae, in honor of Her Royal Highness Princess Sirinthorn but, sadly, is now extinct in Thailand. The thousands of people that live around the lake, plus a multitude of visitors, are disturbing its wildlife and the balance of nature. Only time will tell how well the lake can survive and whether the continuing disappearance of birds can be checked.

Page 153

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio. This is one of the most common birds found here. It can be seen easily, morning and evening, from the road leading to a watchtower by the lake. A large aquatic bird, it breeds and resides here. It has a large red beak and beautiful dark purplish-blue plumage. It has very long toes, which enables it to walk on floating vegetation.

Page 154

Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius. This one was the last of its kind in the wild of Thailand. This bird lived in Beung Boraphet for around ten years. It had been wounded by gun-shot and was unable to leave the area. Unfortunately, the bird was killed by a drunken tourist one night who beat it with a stick when it was found scavenging in the camp ground kitchen. The largest of the stork family, greater adjutant have disappeared from the wild in Thailand but are being bred at a few zoos and captive breeding stations. They are yet another species in the long list of disappearing water birds in the Kingdom.  

Spot-billed pelican will stop to rest on their way either to Cambodia or Myanmar but are very wary of all fishing boats and pleasure craft, and are seen here occasionally. For example, 15 or so spot-billed pelican were seen in 1997 but, the following year, none were recorded. They usually do not stay long and leave quickly if harassed. There are a few introduced spot-billed pelican at the boat dock that are free flying. A single greater adjutant that had been wounded lived here for over 10 years but was killed by a drunken tourist one night. The bird was scavenging in the camper’s pots and pans, and he got up and clubbed it with a stick. A sad ending to the last of its kind in Thailand.

Page 155

Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis. These two were photographed on the lake in mid-1997. The pair stayed only one day. These birds are now very rare in Thailand. Only 15 birds were reported as having stopped here that year and none stayed long. Of seven species of pelican in the world, this is the only species found here. They are endangered throughout their range. Years ago, huge numbers of these remarkable birds could be seen in Thailand.

The long-term effect on all species of bird and animal that visit Beung Boraphet or are resident here depends on whether the Fisheries Department will take further steps to curb the number of people who use it. There is also a problem with litter, and with discarded fishing nets and traps. Opening up the lake as a tourist destination to hordes of boats and people will just continue to play havoc with nature. It therefore needs some serious management and protection if it is to survive intact.



Wildlife Research: The never-

ending search for knowledge of the

natural world

Page 156 – Photo by: Antony Lynam – WCS

Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa. This amazingly marked cat was caught prowling at night in Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary on the border with Malaysia, in Narathiwat province. This very rare photo was taken with a remote camera set up in deep jungle and left for several weeks. These nocturnal and arboreal cats are Thailand’s third largest after the tiger and leopard. They prey primarily on macaque monkeys in evergreen forests and are hardly ever seen. Extremely rare, the clouded leopard is one of nature’s most beautifully marked carnivores.

 Wildlife researchers are engaged in a race against time to map natural species in the wild before deforestation and poaching exterminate them. Many government and NGO project personnel in national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and non-hunting areas around Thailand are doing excellent work in this field. These projects focus on endangered species like elephant, wild cattle, deer, tiger, and bat; plus many birds such as hornbill, woodpecker, barn swallow and the Gurney’s pitta, one of the rarest birds in the world. Projects are primarily funded by NGOs, both local and foreign. The Royal Forest Department is also funding wildlife research in many national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and non-hunting areas.

Page 157 – Photo by: Antony Lynam – WCS

Tiger P. tigris corbetti. This huge cat was caught by camera trap in Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary in Southern Thailand. The cat shown here is an Indochinese tiger, slightly smaller than its cousins, the Siberian tiger and Bengali tiger. A mature male, it was also photographed in several other areas of the sanctuary. The top photo on page 160 shows the same cat but at a different place and date. His markings along the lower left flank are unmistakable. The tiger in Thailand is seriously endangered. There may be 250 left, a sad and serious situation.

Notable activities include on-going projects at various national parks and wildlife sanctuaries around the country. Khao Yai National Park has the Hornbill Research Foundation Project and the Gibbon Project, initiated by Dr Pilai Poonswad and Dr Warren Brockelman respectively. In addition, extensive research on wild cattle and other herbivores has been conducted by Dr. Sompoad Srikosamatara and many bird surveys have been conducted by Philip Round. All four of the above are with Mahidol University. Kaeng Krachan National Park was the site of a recent carnivore ecological study where leopard, leopard cat and palm civet were tracked via radio-telemetry by Lon Grassman Jr., an American wildlife ecologist working out of Kasetsart University.  

Page 158-159

Leopard P. pardus. A female sambar was killed by a a pack of Asian wild dog near a guard station in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. A forest guard heard the deer being killed one afternoon and went to have a look. After killing the deer, the pack deserted it, which happens when they are disturbed by humans or a big cat. Its young one was also killed and found lying a few meters away. A remote Nikon camera with infrared sensors was set up that evening and left overnight, and then retrieved the next morning. This leopard had been photographed before, and during its many visits that night and appeared unbothered by the flashing strobe. Feeding on the rear end of the sambar, and peeling its stomach like an orange, in order to feed on the intestines, is a common trait among these carnivores. The following day, this cat abandoned the big deer but dragged the young one away to a more secluded place and devoured it. 

Some good research has been conducted by using camera-traps in which remote cameras are set up on known trails to photograph passing wildlife. Some remarkable photographs have been taken as can be seen in this chapter. Using this technique, it is possible to map and therefore assess wildlife populations in a given area. Tiger populations can be estimated, for example, by identifying differently marked individuals. This is a necessary research technique to establish wildlife concentrations in the protected areas. 

Many species in Thailand are so endangered that continuous surveys of their status should be made. The Asian wild water buffalo and goral are two species that come readily to mind, but there are many others. More funds and personal are urgently needed for these and many other research projects that could be undertaken by foundations, institutions, universities, NGOs and the Royal Forest Department in the never-ending search for knowledge of the Kingdom’s forests and wildlife.

Page 160 – Photo by: Antony Lynam – WCS

Tiger P. tigris corbetti. This cat is the same one camera-trapped on Page 157. This magnificent cat was photographed at a different place and time in a 40 square kilometer research grid area. Stripe patterns, like human fingerprints, are never shared by two individuals and are noticeably different. This allows research scientists to evaluate tiger populations and habits within a given area.

Photo by: Antony Lynam – WCS

Asian Tapir Tapirus indicus. Also known as the Malayan tapir, caught by camera trap in Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary. These large nocturnal mammals are among the prey species of the tiger and leopard. They move slowly while feeding but their sleek bodies allow extreme speed through thick bush when escaping from a predator. Their average weight is 250-300 kilograms and they are strictly vegetarian, eating aquatic or low-growing vegetation and some fallen fruit. Excellent swimmers, they can stay submerged for long periods. Tapir are endangered throughout Thailand due to continued poaching and habitat loss.

Page 161 – Photo by: Antony Lynam – WCS

Sakai Hunter-Gatherer with his blowpipe, photographed in 1998 by camera trap in Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sakai, an indigenous people whose Malay-derived name is known in Thai as ‘Khon Ngoh Pa’, still survive in this border area which has been their home for thousands of years. Being very secretive and nomadic, usually only their footprints are seen. The Sakai live in complete harmony with nature. Hopefully, in the dense jungle of this southernmost protected area of Thailand, they will continue to survive. 

Counting Cats by their Stripes: Written by Dr Antony Lynam – WCS

Photo by: Antony Lynam – WCS

Tiger, camera-trapped in Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary down south near the border with Malaysia. These magnificent cats thrive very well here and are a testament to the Kingdom’s natural heritage. However, the area is compromised by Southern Muslim Separatists and danger is around every corner, and makes travel to and from the sanctuary perilous. I personally never planned a trip here because of the danger.

Precious little is known about the abundance and behavior of the fauna of Thailand’s forests. This is partly because many wildlife species that live in these tropical forests, especially large mammals, are extremely rare, or are difficult to see, or maintain nocturnal activity patterns. Traditionally, researchers would record rain forest fauna only when they could shoot or trap them. Between 1854 and 1862, Alfred Russell Wallace, a pioneer biologist, described literally hundreds of new species from his travels through the Indonesian and Malay archipelagos. Wallace’s methods involved sacrificing and collecting most of the animals he encountered. Other nondestructive methods for assessing wildlife involve recording the signs of animals: their tracks, feces, scrapes, prey kills or other evidence of their presence.  Experienced trackers can identify which species are in an area from looking at such signs. Tracking in a rain forest often involves long hours of walking, but the animals themselves are rarely observed in the dense vegetation.

A special technique is now available to rapidly assess the status and distribution of tropical fauna. This technique allows researchers to count wildlife without disturbing their natural activity patterns. The method involves the use of infrared-based camera traps. The camera traps are simple 35mm cameras with infrared mechanisms contained within a weatherproof housing.  The traps are tied to trees or logs a short distance from the ground near animal trails or streams. They automatically record any wildlife which cross in front of the beam and imprint the time and day when the photograph was taken. These methods are harmless in that they do not involve capture of animals. The camera traps function without the researcher having to be present. Camera traps can be used to count wildlife, learn about their movement patterns and the times at which they are active, and assess their distribution.

Camera-trapping is especially useful for monitoring cryptic species such as wild cats (e.g. tiger, clouded leopard and leopard cat). This is because the pattern of stripes or spots on a cat is unique to an individual, just as fingerprints differ between humans. The coat pattern can therefore be used to identify individuals. The number of individuals living in a particular area can then be calculated. Care must be taken to use photographs of only left or right sides since coat patterns are asymmetrical.



Zoos and Captive Breeding Stations:

Important educational and

breeding sites for Thailand’s


Page 162

Banteng B. javenicus. This bull was photographed in Sadong Captive Breeding Station in Kanchanaburi province. These cattle are highly endangered in the wild but are being bred in several such stations around the Kingdom. This place also has sambar, hog deer, barking deer and wild pig. Large animals in zoos and captive breeding stations make a good starting point for the novice wildlife photographer.

The pressures of modern life mean that the average person has very little time to visit the natural world or to enjoy the country’s zoos and national parks. Many people are not even interested in such things. Tragically, this means that society at large suffers from at least two serious misconceptions about this country’s wildlife.

First, most people seem to have no idea that the country still harbours some magnificent flora and fauna. Because most television programs on wildlife are aired either during the day when few people are home, or late at night when almost everyone is in bed, most people have no idea of the status of Thailand’s wildlife and forests. Most of these programs feature wildlife abroad. Consequently, many people believe there are very few, if any, wild animals left in our forests. They think the wildlife that still exists is found only in zoos and safari parks. And if nothing is left in the wild, why worry about it? 

Sambar Stag R. unicorn photographed in Sadong Captive Breeding Station near Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary and the lower Sri Nakharin dam in Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand. The sambar’s horns are in velvet.

This is a most damaging belief because it creates a great void of misunderstanding concerning the country’s natural wealth. It is precisely this lack of caring that allows destruction to continue unchecked with almost no consequences for the perpetrators. Only on rare occasions are culprits actually brought to justice for their misdeeds against nature. 

A second, equally erroneous but almost opposite belief is that if an animal can be found in a Thai zoo, it must also exist in the wild in Thailand. Someone once asked the author if there were any giraffes or lions in Thailand because they had seen them in a safari park.

Brow-antlered Deer Cervus eldi, also known as Eld’s deer in Doi Suthep Nature Education Center in Chiang Mai. This male can easily be seen with other deer in the grounds. Brow-antlered deer are now extinct in the wild in this country. Several breeding programs for later reintroduction into the wild are underway but none have yet been introduced to any protected areas. These deer have recently been reintroduced into Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Thailand and a small herd can be seen here now.

Misconceptions like these are commonplace, especially amongst the younger generation whose free time is so often devoted to modern pastimes that do not include nature and wildlife. Quite clearly, more education and awareness about Thailand’s wildlife are urgently needed. The country’s zoos and breeding stations offer excellent places to start, and they can be stepping-stones to a lifelong love affair with wildlife and the forests. A day spent at the nearest zoo, provided it is well designed and operated, should be on everyone’s calendar as a truly enjoyable outing for family and friends.

Thailand’s public zoos are run by the Zoological Park Organization which was founded in 1954 to look after what was then the country’s only zoo, the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok. It now manages five zoos — at Dusit, Chiang Mai, Khao Khieo, Nakhon Ratchasima and  Songkhla.

The most famous of these is still Dusit Zoo (Khao Din) in Bangkok. Established in 1938, it occupies 10 rai (1.6 hectares) of land in Dusit district between Chitlada Palace and Parliament. It attracts 2.5 million people a year, a remarkable figure. A trip to Khao Din with its waterways and superb array of species on show is an experience.

Common Barking Deer within the spacious grounds of Doi Suthep Nature Education Center in Chiang Mai. This station is managed by the Royal Forest Department. The area is quite large and also houses two sizeable herds of banteng cattle, including one very old bull. The setting is very tranquil in the foothills of Doi Suthep next to Wat Umong which also has a forested area where barking deer and hog deer roam.  

The next zoo to open in Thailand was the Chiang Mai Zoo. Conceived by an American, the late Harold Young, who was an expert on Thai flora and fauna, having lived in Thailand and Burma before World War II, is nestled at the bottom of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park and has an excellent aviary. This is one of the finest zoos in Thailand. A visit here is a must for all Thai and foreign tourists who love nature and are in Chiang Mai. 

Page 166=167

White-handed Gibbon (top), Common Otter Lutra lutra (middle), also known as the Eurasian otter, and Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus (bottom) in the Chiang Mai Zoo at the base of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Gibbon are still found in the wild as are otters but their numbers have seriously declined due to habitat loss and poaching pressure. The vulture have disappeared but a few are seen from time to time in Huai Kha Khaeng and else where.. The Chiang Mai Zoo is well-designed, with large enclosures, landscaping, and shade for the animals. It’s a great place to spend the day enjoying nature and wildlife. The zoo offers many opportunities for budding wildlife photographers. A great place to practice.

The Doi Suthep Nature Education Center is managed by the Royal Forest Department and is a couple of kilometres south of the Chiang Mai Zoo. It is actually not all that well-known but it too is tucked into the base of Doi Suthep. In the first of its two enclosures one can see sambar, brow-antlered, hog and barking deer, and other species including many birds. In the other are banteng, the magnificent wild cattle, where two-herds are supported by one old bull. The most amazing thing about them is that they are extremely hard to spot even in this two square kilometer plot.

Page 168

Asian Elephant E. maximus. This shot was taken in Khao Khieo Open Zoo in Chonburi province. History was made when the world’s first captive elephant twins were born here. Elephant are very sociable as is evident from the photo. The father is reaching out with his trunk, over the mother, to the twins in the foreground. This zoo is also a good one for photographing rare wildlife in natural surroundings.

Serow C. sumatraensis in the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok. These goat-antelope are good swimmers and have been seen in the wild, navigating deepwater reservoirs in mountainous areas. Fortunately, they still survive in the wild, but their numbers have declined over the years. The demand for their horns by ‘cock-fighting’ enthusiasts to make daggers for the fighting chickens, and the use of oil from boiled Serow heads has been the reason for the decline.

Khao Khieo Open Zoo, in Chonburi province on Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard, is the country’s largest open zoo. This zoo contains the very rare gaur that cannot normally be kept in captivity. It also has one of the world’s largest aviaries. The zoo has the further distinction of having the only elephant twins in the world to have been born in captivity. The breeding station supports and studies many species. Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo has a breeding program for the sarus crane and has been successful in producing chicks.      

Of the Kingdom’s many privately run zoos, the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm is perhaps the best known. South of Bangkok, at the mouth of the Chao Phraya river, it is the largest such farm in the world. It breeds Siamese crocodile — Crocodylus siamensis, the false gavial — Tomistoma schlegelii, and the estuarine crocodile — Crocodylus porosus. This extremely good zoo also raises other species, such as elephant, tiger and monkey, and attracts many thousands of visitors every year. 

In addition to good zoos, another way to further educate the public regarding the Kingdom’s wildlife is through visits to nature education and wildlife captive breeding stations run by the Department of National Parks. At these stations many animal and bird species that have disappeared in the wild are being bred for possible reintroduction into appropriate wildlife habitats. These centres offer special group programs, both for children and adults alike, and are thus suitable for visits by schools, universities and other organizations. 

Hog and brow-antlered deer have all but disappeared from Thailand’s wilderness but are being bred in several such stations. Some species like banteng, the wild cattle that still survive in the wild but are endangered, are also being bred. Other mammals such as wild pig, sambar and barking deer are less endangered but, nevertheless, are being stocked for later reintroduction. Birds like sarus crane, greater adjutant and spot-billed pelican, to name but a few, can be found at several stations. Hopefully, sizeable numbers of all these magnificent creatures will again proliferate in the Kingdom’s natural habitats.

Wildlife breeding programs are not without their problems, however. For example, the sarus crane does not breed readily in captivity. Furthermore, many people suspect that reintroduced birds and mammals will not be able to survive long in the wild due to many negative factors such as poaching, encroachment, and interruption of breeding cycles. For reintroduction programs to stand a better chance of success, it is also imperative that substantial attention be paid to saving the forests where, if well-protected, the likelihood of wildlife being able to survive on its own terms will be enhanced. 

Without doubt, zoos and captive breeding stations are essential. They educate people while offering fun, excitement and the pleasure of seeing wildlife up close. Other than visiting Thailand’s protected areas, zoos and stations provide an excellent alternative for seeing some of the Kingdom’s fine wildlife. Visiting and supporting important education and breeding centres is well worth the effort.



The Dark Side of Nature: An on-

going threat to Thailand’s wildlife

Page 170

Poachers photographed in a protected area. These men are part of a group of six, five of whom have guns and the other a set of male sambar antlers. On-going poaching of mammals creates a serious drain on the ability of many species to reproduce through natural selection, thus reducing their numbers. This photograph is one of the first of hill-people illegally poaching in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, a World Heritage Site.

One cannot emphasize too strongly the urgent message of this book that the wildlife in the Kingdom of Thailand is under very serious threat from the ultimate predator, man himself. The photograph shown below confirms in unmistakable and dramatic fashion that poachers continue to enter protected areas in search of wildlife. These men were photographed by the author, sitting alone in a photographic blind at a mineral lick within a reserved area. It was a dangerous experience, hopefully never to be repeated. 

There are several different levels off poaching, some for food, some for sport, and contract hunting for meat, animal parts, trophies and live animals. Unfortunately, this evil practice by certain individuals, at all levels and sectors of Thai society, who know that hunting, is illegal in protected areas. They continue to hunt personally or entice local people living close to those areas to hunt for them. Usually, well-to-do people with influence supply the locals with guns, ammunition, food, clothing and money this is gladly received. The villagers then travel with these patrons in vehicles, or venture out on their own, to bring down the Kingdom’s magnificent fauna for monetary gain.  

Page 171

Forest fire in a protected area. Fires such as this, often started deliberately by poachers, create serious problems for both the Royal Forest Department and the Forest Fire Protection Center units. Putting these fires out early is a must. Sometimes they consume large areas of pristine forest and kill many creatures not able to escape the inferno.

Throughout Thailand, many villagers and ethnic tribes live close or within protected areas. Most of them farm, raise cattle and live off the land as their fore-bearers did for centuries before them. Some of these have been evicted by the government after their area has been gazetted a park or sanctuary. Many of these poor people feel they have a right to use the forest for all it has to offer. It is difficult to blame them for their instinctive need to survive in this fashion. 

Forest encroachment in one of northern Thailand’s national parks. Every year, large areas are nibbled away at the fringes of Thailand’s protected areas, that are truly detrimental to the ecosystem and its wildlife.

Page 172

A group of poachers are shown walking into a mineral lick in a wildlife sanctuary. Poaching poses a serious problem in Thailand’s national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and non-hunting areas. Better protection and enforcement by the Royal Forest Department is needed to curb further destruction of the forest and wildlife. More money and personnel is the key but corruption is still and on-going problem and also needs attention.

Poachers use modern and antiquated weapons, snares, traps, pitfalls and poison to bring down wildlife indiscriminately. The black market for tiger and leopard bones, big cat skins, elephant ivory and horns of buffalo, gaur, banteng and antlers of sambar and barking deer is a serious threat to these large mammals. Those poachers seeking trophies regularly move in and out of protected areas, usually taking just the tusks of elephant or the head and trophy of the herbivores. Bear parts and tiger bones are also in big demand for the Asian medicine trade, which continues to threaten these very rare animals. It is common to see wildlife trophies of rare fauna in homes and business establishments around Thailand. 

Page 173

Wildlife Trophies. A sad ending for some of Thailand’s magnificent wildlife. They are displayed in homes and business establishments all over the country and are regarded as a status symbol by many. The trophies shown here are of gaur, sambar, brow-antlered deer, serow, goral, barking deer and wild pig. The skin is from a leopard. Most of these species are seriously endangered. The future of Thailand’s innocent wildlife looks very bleak, to say the least. Extreme measures need to be taken to stop those who trade in wildlife trophies.    

If all illegal hunting is to be curtailed, the problem needs to be addressed now, before further species disappear. Perpetrators, at all levels, caught in possession of hunting weapons and animal parts should be properly penalized, so much so that the punishment serves as a strong deterrent. All villages in and outside the protected areas should be visited and the people notified of new measures to protect the forests and their wildlife. Continued contact with village officials and patrols, so that designated areas remain poacher free, is of paramount importance. New programs to help villagers find new ways of making an income should be implemented.

Emphasis should be placed on security in protected areas, using dedicated, properly trained groups, similar to the Endangered Species Protection Unit (E.S.P.U.) that operates in some countries in Africa. Wildlife protection units should be established, comprised of men specially handpicked from the Border Patrol Police and the Royal Thai Army Special Forces or Rangers, in conjunction with the Royal Forest Department and the Department of National Parks. These militarized units have the equipment, training, commando techniques, spirit and dedication needed for this difficult task. Detachments should be permanently stationed in areas requiring nonstop protection. Continuous patrols and strict enforcement by such units would greatly restrict poaching. NGOs and government must be prepared to work together and fund programs like this if the wildlife in Thailand is to survive intact into the future.



Wildlife Photography: Techniques

and equipment for wildlife


Page 173

Chinese Pond-Heron Ardeola bacchussitting. Standing on a tree branch in Sai Yok National Park. Common water birds of medium size, pond-herons can be seen all over Thailand as residents and winter visitors in marshy areas and rice fields. Wading in shallow water, they feed on fish and aquatic animals with their dagger-like bills. 

Every wildlife photograph captures a moment in time seldom repeated in the wilderness. In this sense, if an ordinary photo is worth a thousand words, a wildlife photograph is worth a million. Wildlife photography is one of the toughest tests of a photographer. Not only is the subject extremely shy and wary, a fact that makes it extremely difficult to see, let alone photograph, but a whole range of intricately interactive technical issues must also be mastered. 

A good photograph combines perfect focus with the right composition and exposure. In the wild, the ever-changing state of light, and sometimes dark and wet conditions, and the thick jungle and forest cover are just the beginning of the technical challenges that must be overcome. The photographer then needs the proper combination of camera, lens, film, support and technique plus a certain amount of luck. Even if the timing is just right, the chances of taking the perfect photo are still slim due to a host of other variables. Understanding nature and wildlife is just another part of the complicated process of acquiring the perfect wildlife image.

The true wildlife photographer takes photos of everything that catches his eye no matter how much film he burns, in the quest for that exceptional image. In this game, the likelihood of taking a perfect picture on the first shot is hugely remote, yet on many occasions in the wild, the single shot opportunity is the only one that presents itself. If all the right conditions drop magically and instantaneously into place, then the shot of a lifetime, the one we have always dreamed of taking, comes along. A wildlife photograph that is sharp and catches the right moment is something of which the owner can be proud. It should be shown to as many people as possible to educate them about the natural world.

In meeting all these challenges, it is essential to have the right equipment. Starting with the camera itself, there are many brands from which to choose. The author’s choice is Nikon. Its system of using the finest quality bodies and lenses, completely interchangeable for more than the past 40 years, speaks for itself.

Page 174

Chinese Pond-Heron. This the same bird as on Page 173 but a few seconds later, showing the bird lifting off from the tree branch. This photograph could never be repeated. A lucky moment of time in the natural world.

Of these two components, the most important single piece of equipment in capturing that stunning image is the lens.  If used with proper care and maintenance, it will produce stunning photographs. 

For general all-round use, a telephoto 300mm ƒ4 or 400mm ƒ5.6 lens is a good starting point but, if the pocketbook will allow, the more expensive 300mm ƒ2.8 or 400mm ƒ2.8 is even better. Any of these lenses can then be used with a 1.4X or 2X tele-converter to increase their focal length that allows the photographer to get in closer to the subject without in fact moving. 

If birds are the subject, a 500mm ƒ4 or 600mm ƒ4 is the lens of choice due to the small size of most feathered creatures. These lenses are of course, very heavy and expensive as is most camera equipment.

Besides telephoto lenses, the wildlife photographer will also need a wide-angle lens for those sweeping, majestic landscapes, plus other lenses for close-up work on flowers, insects and forest view shots. Modern zoom lenses like a 24mm-120mm ƒ3.5-5.6, 70mm-300mm ƒ4-5.6 and the 80-200 ƒ2.8 are great lenses for all-round work and cover a wide spectrum. These zoom lenses can also facilitate good close-up macro work with the right attachments. Fixed focal length lenses are great, but many lenses are needed to cover short to medium focal lengths. For anyone wanting to take a wide variety of wildlife photos, one can manage very well with just two zooms and a 300mm, 400mm or 500mm telephoto with a 1.4 or 2X tele-converter. 

After lenses, the next most important camera component is the body. With so many different models to choose from, depending on one’s budget, the choice between a mechanical or electronic body is best left to the individual. The bottom line is to obtain one that suits your needs. Modern electronic bodies allow more precise metering and bracketing (taking several photos at different exposures automatically) while photographing. The mechanical ones are slower and more noisy, but tolerate moisture better. Forests are normally highly moist places that can play havoc with lenses, bodies and film. Nikon bodies used by the author for this book included the FM2, FE, F601, F3, F4, N90s and the latest F5. Proper care and maintenance, plus a spare body or two, are hugely important to the wildlife photographer. 

The author with his photographic team at the Seub Nakhasathien Monument in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Uthai Thani province, and now a World Heritage Site. Seub was one of the original authors in the bid for this status.

Film used by professionals is slide film in speeds from 50 to 400 ISO. Lower-speed films allow sharp photos but are difficult with available light. Higher-speed films are grainy, but give more latitude with exposure. Most of the photos in this book were taken with 100 ISO and some were pushed one or two stops. This push process allows one to gain some speed during low light conditions but requires special lab processing and results in images with a slight loss in sharpness. A technique sometime used is to have two camera bodies loaded with 100 or 200 or 400 ISO film — one set at the standard setting and the other pushed one or two stops for those early morning or late evening shots.

Other essential equipment includes a good tripod and a solid ball-head. These are probably just as important as the camera and lens for without steady support the image will not be sharp. A good flash is also required. Modern TTL (through the lens) programming is often preferred but earlier models can do just as well. Again, this depends on one’s budget. Camera bags are also very important in helping to protect very expensive photographic gear. There are many good brands on the market. Peripheral photographic equipment includes filters, shutter release cables, cleaning materials, etc. Once again, choice is up to the individual. 

Another very important aspect of the wonderful world of wildlife photography is proper use of a photographic blind. This allows you to blend in with your natural surroundings. The art of staying hidden while waiting for wildlife subjects to appear is difficult but must be mastered. Most wildlife is extremely attuned to possible danger. Its single instinctive response is to flee immediately.

Probably the single most productive approach is to set up a photographic blind in advance and as close to the subject as possible. Location will be determined by the lay of the land and where the subject is likely to visit, such as a water hole, mineral lick, bird’s nest or den. The blind can consist simply of the black or green netting that is sold in all hardware stores. This is used to make a cubicle with openings for the camera lens and viewing port. A plastic tarpaulin to keep out the sun and rain is draped over the top. The outline of the blind is broken up by using camouflage cloth, tree branches, leaves and grass. 

A comfortable seat is important to minimize movement within the blind. Another very good approach is to construct a permanent blind in a tree. This puts the photographer high up and out of most wildlife’s range of vision and scent. A good photo blind is one that allows you to move comfortably within it and operate your camera freely without being detected.

Page 180

The author and his old trusty Land Rover (Series 1-1957) in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Thailand. This vehicle was absolutely reliable and tough to withstand the horrendous road conditions in Thung Yai that were created by 4 X 4 offroad vehicles that entered the sanctuary for excitement and thrills. These groups usually had an influential person on board so entry was easy. It has made it very difficult for the rangers and patrolling as their vehicles are less then, adequate for the rough road conditions. These groups were finally banned from entering the protected area.

The toughest test is to cover your scent as most large fauna like gaur, deer and the cats, can smell you from a long way away. Just a whiff is all it takes. They will move away before you even see them. A technique used by the author is to set fresh gaur dung, when available, around the outside of the blind. These are then agitated often, with a stick to cover human scent, thus making the chance of taking photographs of wary wildlife more likely.  

In the blind, subdued clothing is best. Dark green, brown, black or, best of all, camouflage, enables you to remain undiscovered. Some birds’ eyesight is so acute they can detect the blink of your eye as you sit in the blind. The main objective is to blend in, stay hidden and be absolutely quiet.

 If you are new to wildlife photography, practice by taking lots of photos close to home. Patience and persistence are two important virtues that must be mastered. Evaluate your ability at zoos and wildlife captive breeding stations before venturing out into wilderness areas and incurring higher expenses. Learn by listening to those who have produced good images; read and study books and articles on the art of photography. These things will all pay off in the long run. Then, when you are ready to venture forth, the only way to acquire that prized wildlife photograph is to get out into the wilderness and shoot lots of film. The more you are out and shoot, the better your chances in the fantastic world of wildlife photography!



© David Unkovich


Thailand’s Top Twenty

Protected Areas

1)    Huai Kha Khaeng WS (Uthai Thani)

2)   Thung Yai Naresuan WS (Kanchanaburi)

3)   Khao Yai NP (Nakhon Ratchasima) 

4)   Kaeng Krachan NP (Phetchaburi)

5)   Khao Sok NP (Surat Thani)

6)   Thap Lan NP (Prachinburi)

7)   Salak Phra WS (Kanchanaburi)

8)   Phu Khieo WS (Chaiyaphum)

9)   Khao Soi Dao WS (Chantaburi)

10) Doi Inthanon NP (Chiang Mai)

11) Phu Luang WS (Loei)

12) Umphang WS (Tak)

13) Om Koi WS (Chiang Mai)

14) Erawan NP (Kanchanaburi)

15) Sai Yok NP (Kanchanaburi)

16) Hala-Bala WS (Narathiwat)

17) Doi Suthep-Pui NP (Chiang Mai)

18) Thung Salaeng Luang NP (Phetchabun)

19) Beung Boraphet NHA  (Nakhon Sawan)

20) Thale Sap Songkhla NHA  (Songkhla)



Wildlife in Thailand has required much support from many people and organizations in the Kingdom. For almost four years,  I traveled through many national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and non-hunting areas, photographing the wildlife. Quite a few new friends and acquaintances were made during this period. 

The most important people in my life are my immediate family. Sincere thanks go to my wife, Puangpayom (Noi), and my daughter, Marguerite Dalal, along with her husband, Tipp Dalal. Their untiring support throughout this project was truly inspirational to me. They are as much a part of this book as I am. 

Niyom Tumtamala, my wife’s younger brother, unselfishly ran our company while I spent many, many months away from the office, working on my project. He is specially thanked.

Sincere thanks go to Dr. Plodprasop Suraswadi, Director-General of the Royal Forest Department for his support.  Also, from the RFD, I should like to thank M.R. Bhadharajaya Rajani, Watana Kaeokamnerd, Chatchai 
Rattanopas, Charin Itharat, Dr. Viroj Pimmanrojnagool, Dr. Schwann Tunhikorn, Sa-Nguan Tanachaisittikool, Komolchai Boonchai, Dr. Thawatchai Santisook, Dr. Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, Dr. Chaweewan Hutacharern, Witthaya Weerasumpan, Ourb Cherng Sa-ard, Maroot Nilsuwan, Manop Chompoojan, Kriangsak Ketjuntra,  Picha Pitayakajornwute, Niwat Jatkanond and Veerawat Dheeraprasart. Also, Patrick Baker, Chris Dickinson, Robert Cunningham and Adrian  Hillman, working with the RFD, are thanked for their help in species identification.

 George Poole, Waranun Chutchawantipakorn and Sunthorn Teeratamtada are sincerely thanked for their advice and support on cameras, technique and equipment. 

Special recognition goes to Kanokwan (Kai) Sansri for her graphic design. She is sincerely thanked for her patience and the long hours spent on a computer.

During the course of producing hundreds of slides and direct prints needed for this book, Green House Photo Lab was a great help. Many thanks to the staff for their friendly and professional service.    

Many of the photos presented in this book would not have been possible without the help of the following people living in Sai Yok district, Kanchanaburi province: Prawet Suckjai, Sawad Puangprasert, Sophon Thongpradab, Somboon Siangsai, Tik Sangharoen and Sereechai Tinthong. They were the members of my photographic team. They are true friends and my heartfelt thanks go to them for their patience and support. My sincere thanks and appreciation goes to the contributing photographers listed on page 181. 

Phanom Klowjunterc is thanked for his bird expertise during the many trips to Beung Boraphet NHA. 

Much appreciation goes to many other people who helped with the book: my old friend of over 30 years, Hardy Stockmann, gave me much publishing guidance; another very good friend, David Unkovich, produced the map of Thailand’s protected areas; Tim Sharp edited the early stages of this book; Mark Standen, advised on production matters; Dr. Sompoad Srikosamatara, Dr. Warren Brockelman and Philip Round, all of Mahidol University; Varavudh Suteethorn of the Department of Mineral Resources; Dr. Robert Mather of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Thailand); Dr. Naris Bhumpakphan and Lon Grassman Jr. of Kasetsart University; Jarujin Nabhitabhata of National Science Museum for all their support.    

For his untiring work in editing Wildlife in the Kingdom of Thailand and for his invaluable assistance, I should like to express my grateful thanks to Keith Hardy.

M.L. Birabhongse Kasemsri and Prakas Vacharaporn are sincerely thanked for their inspiration at the very beginning of this book project.

And finally, to all those other people, too many to mention here, who played a part in helping me bring this book to publication, I give my sincere thanks.                 

L. Bruce Kekule – Bangkok, October 1999



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