WILDLIFE in THAILAND: A Photographic Portfolio of Thailand’s Natural Heritage – Part Three

Friday, May 8, 2020posted by Bruce 2:07 AM



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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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.

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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!

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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. 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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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