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

Friday, April 24, 2020posted by Bruce 11:40 AM





Thailand largest protected area and

World Heritage Site

Page 74

Large Bamboo Rat Rhizomys sumatrensis. These stocky rodents are found in bamboo thickets. They defend themselves vigorously when cornered and have razor-sharp teeth that could easily bite off a finger. These mammals seldom come above ground, living beneath the surface in bamboo groves. Their diet consists of bamboo, young grass, leaves and roots. They are highly prized as food by hilltribe people and are eagerly poached.

Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in Kanchanaburi and Tak provinces on Thailand’s western border with Myanmar. At 3,622 square kilometers (1,398 square miles) it is Thailand’s single largest protected area, surpassing both Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaeng Krachan National Park. Thung Yai is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary on its eastern border.  Also adjoining Thung Yai are Sri Nakharin and Khao Laem National Parks to the southeast and southwest respectively and, to the north, Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary.

            Thung Yai gained its status due to the richness of its flora and fauna, and the absolute need to save this vast area from further human destruction. However, a road to the tribal village of Jakae in the northern part of the sanctuary unfortunately traverses it. There is heavy traffic to and from the village, especially during the dry season. A mineral mine near the village has also been active for some time. It is supposedly still operating on a minimal basis. The concession was recently extended for another 30 years.  

The sanctuary consists primarily of ‘karst’ mountains which are common to the Dawna-Tenasserim Range. Many rivers and streams divide the area into valleys and lowland plains. Its distinguishing feature is a ‘large central grassland’ (or ‘big field’ as the Thai name ‘thung yai’ means) that once harboured many large herds of elephant, gaur and sambar that roamed here in complete harmony.

Unfortunately, elephant have almost disappeared from the area although passing migrants have been recorded from time to time. There is still a sizeable herd of gaur. However, this is split up into small groups that prefer to remain in the deep ravines during the day. For safety, they only come out on to the plains at night. Occasionally, in May and June, after the grassland fires and subsequent first rains, they can be seen during the morning or evening, feeding on the newly sprouted young grass. Gaur are very shy, and difficult to see or photograph, but occasionally one gets a lucky glimpse of this wild forest ox. These large beasts of the family ‘Bovidae’ stand more than 1.7 meters at the shoulder and weigh up to 900 kilograms for a mature bull. Some very old bulls have been estimated to weigh up to a ton.

Page 75

Bauhinia erthroelada in bloom near the southern entrance to the sanctuary close to Tee Nuay guard station. This photo was taken in February, when many trees in flower are to be seen, as are many different species of orchids.

There are some banteng, the wild red cattle, in the South-eastern part of the sanctuary, bordering Huai Kha Khaeng, but their numbers are small and they probably move back and forth between the two sanctuaries. Sambar, barking deer, wild pig and serow are common here, and a small area in the western part of the sanctuary supports tapir. With sizeable herds of large mammals as prey species, tiger and leopard can survive. Smaller mammals like the leopard cat, civet cat and porcupine are very common and easily seen along the road at night. The bamboo rat is often heard gnawing away underground in bamboo clumps but is seldom seen. Unfortunately, these large rodents are poached for their meat and are thought to be dwindling in numbers.

There are a few mineral licks in Thung Yai and these are visited by gaur, sambar, barking deer, monitor lizard, plus many species of birds including the mountain imperial pigeon, pin-tailed pigeon and blue magpie, all of which come to take in minerals.

Many other bird species survive here, including the very rare white-winged duck. The crested kingfisher, also rare, has been spotted at some remote forest lakes and along waterways. The sanctuary has many rivers and streams. These include the Mae Khlong, Suriya, Dongwee, Songthai, Tsesawoh and Maekasa, plus many other small tributary streams.     

One of the oldest plant species in Thailand, the cycad, can be found in Thung Yai. These beautiful plants were around during the time of the dinosaur and may be seen from the road. Many types of orchid flower here during February and March. One of the most notable is the elephant orchid that can be found in the interior.

Thung Yai’s worrisome traffic along the road is a problem. This definitely affects the sanctuary’s wildlife and ecosystem. The human population at Jakae and the other Karen villages will continue to increase and thus the greater number of vehicles plying the road can only be detrimental to the sanctuary. Litter thrown from passing vehicles along the road and at various stops is also a problem that needs attention.

The Karen villages and the mine are well entrenched. Unfortunately, there is no alternative road nor could one be constructed that would not damage the sanctuary. More and more people are traveling back and forth through Thung Yai, further weakening it.

             These are sad but true facts that are adversely affecting this World Heritage Site today and will debilitate it further in the long term if access is not strictly controlled. Many conflicts have occurred and it is hoped that a solution can be initiated where man and nature can live in balanced harmony.

Page 76

Mineral lick in the interior of the sanctuary. Gaur, sambar, barking deer and monitor lizard visit almost daily as do many birds such as pin-tailed, thick-billed and mountain imperial pigeons. Occasionally, tiger will come looking for prey. Many well-beaten trails enter from all directions and crisscross this natural spring.

Page 77

Gaur B. gaurus in late afternon. These two bulls came in from the south and went straight up to the waterhole to drink. Not many photographs of gaur have been taken here. They are extremely wary and this dish-shaped natural deposit with its ever-changing wind currents allows them to scent intruders immediately. I was with a helper in a blind far enough away to hide plus I used gaur-droppings to hide our scent.

Page 78-79

Gaur B. gaurus walking back across the mineral lick. The more mature bull leads the younger one, a common trait among bulls away from the herd. These two bulls are extremely alert for any predators that might be lurking nearby. The two bulls have probably been expelled by the herd bull to live separate lives until breeding time. They will then stick close to a herd, hoping to mate with the females. Fierce fights sometimes take place between the herd bull and outsiders like these two. Occasionally, one gets killed in the process. The author was extremely lucky to have taken these photographs. None have been taken here in recent times.

Page 80

Sambar C. unicolor at the end of the dry season. This stag has shed much of his hair. He also sheds his antlers once a year in March and quickly grows a new set. The antlers are very tender in the first few months, a state known as ‘in velvet’. Sambar are mainly browsers and feed in areas of secondary growth on young leaves, soft buds of shrubs, new grass and fallen fruit. Thailand’s largest deer, they are threatened throughout their range. The bloody patch on the throat of this species is very evident in both photographs. Not much is known about this glandular lesion. All wild sambar have one but it disappears in captive animals. The female is smaller than the male and has no antlers as seen in the lower photograph of two does. 

Page 81

Common Barking Deer M. muntjak female taking in minerals. All large herbivores visit mineral licks as a natural part of their life. Many birds also flock here including the little cuckoo-dove, mountain imperial pigeon, thick-billed pigeon and pin-tailed pigeon. Natural alarm birds for mammals are the blue magpie and white-throated kingfisher. They call out loudly at approaching danger as they fly around this mineral lick, alerting all that a predator is close-by. 

Page 82

Huai Talursuh. Much wildlife uses the crystal clear waters of this year-round stream as a primary water source. Many of the large mammals in Thung Yai, plus many species of reptile, amphibian, bird and smaller mammal, visit this water source daily. The headwaters flow from a limestone formation just south of the big grassland in the central section of the sanctuary.

Page 83

Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeusnear close to Talursuh stream. These brightly colored but smallish arboreal birds are common throughout the area. The male is bright scarlet red and the female bright yellow. They feed mainly on insects and build cup-shaped nests in tree forks.

Water Monitor close to Huai Dongwee. This beautifully marked reptile is still young and has been found very close to camp. It eats fish, birds, am-phibians and any carrion it comes upon. Being young, coloration is sharp but will fade as it grows larger and older.

Page 84

Huai Dongwee. This seasonal stream is in the central area of the sanctuary. This waterway harbours the very rare crested kingfisher that is found only along a few streams within the Western Forest Complex. Many other birds use this stream including the hooded pitta, blue magpie, red junglefowl and silver pheasant. Large wildlife such as gaur, sambar, barking deer and wild pig plus tigers and leopards also frequent this stream to drink.

Page 85

Black Bulbul Hypsipetes madagascariensis. This beautiful bird was photographed in the northern section of Thung Yai, at Maekasa Stream. One of 36 species of bulbul, black bulbul are not often seen, however, they are common around this stream. Their main  food source is fruit. Flocks of several different species of bird can be seen together in one tree during the fruiting season.

Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary grassland area. The sanctuary has many majestic viewpoints and offers beautiful scenery. Large mammals like gaur, sambar, barking deer and tiger are seen occasionally in the open spaces. Thung Yai is one of Thailand’s most magnificent natural treasures

Page 86

Ground Gingers Curcuma aeruginosa. These plants are thought to be endemic to Thung Yai, and are common sights during May just after the fires and the first rains. This is also when the tender grass sprouts entice gaur out into the grassland. Occasionally, one can glimpse these wild forest ox in the morning and evening as they graze. 

Page 87

Chinese Francolin Francolinus pintadeanus. Of some ten species of partridge in Thailand, this one prefers open grassland and scrub. Its call, “thi-tha-thaak-tha-thaa”, resounding but harsh, can be heard for many kilometers. It is a familiar and unmistakable sound around Thung Yai. Calling from the upper branches of trees, this bird is seldom seen.

Page 88-89

Chao Por Rue Si Spirit House in Thung Yai. This revered and holy place is in the central section along the road at the sanctuary’s highest point. The shrine, built in February 1960, is visited and worshipped by most people that pass by. Legend has it that Chao Por Rue Si is the spirit protector of all forests and animals. In his many trips to Thung Yai, the author always stopped to pay homage and rest at this wonderful place. Unfortunately, it burned down during the rainy season (1997) due to a lighted candle that was left burning carelessly. Amazingly, the statue is still intact. The spirit house is sadly missed by those who loved its serene and mystical beauty. It has since been rebuilt.

Page 90

Limestone outcrop in the central section of the sanctuary close to the road and visible from only one spot. This formation reminds one of a Buddha image. The author is always been arrested by this spectacle whenever he visits Thung Yai.

Page 91

Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensison. This small carnivore was on the road in the central section at night. This cat is out on the prowl for prey that includes lizards, amphibians, birds, rodents and mouse deer. Smallest of the wild cats, it will climb trees readily and ambush from above. It is also found in caves where it feeds on fallen bats, swallows and some snakes.

Stream Terrapin Cyclemys dentatain. A small reptile was found in a stream in the central section. This is the smallest of all the species of freshwater terrapin found in Thailand.

Page 92

Green Keelback Rhabdophis nigrocinctus. This little snake in a pond was looking for something to eat. These snakes hunt small lizards and amphibians.

Pope’s Pit-Viper Trimeresurus popeiorum. This is a common snake throughout Thailand. They are extremely poisonous but not that large, usually less than a meter in length. This one was photographed in Thung Yai’s grassland area.

Page 93

Bengal Monitor V. bengalensis. A rather large reptile hunting for prey at a mineral lick in the central sector. This female lizard is full of eggs. The photograph was taken very close to the photo blind. Monitor lizard hunt anything they can catch and are very adept tree climbers. They are also excellent nest raiders, stealing eggs from other reptiles and birds.

Page 94

White-handed Gibbon Hylobates lar. A common primate in Thung Yai close to Maekasa guard station in the northern section of the sanctuary. This particular buff-colored female gibbon came every morning with a black mate to feed on fruit, but the male was extremely elusive. These arboreal creatures usually mate for life.

Page 95

Sapium insigne. This poisonous tree growing in the forest close to the Karen village of Jakae in the northern sector of the sanctuary. It is the dark coloured heavily barked tree in the middle of the photograph, and its sap is highly poisonous. Just minute traces entering the bloodstream can kill a human. Old-time hunters tipped their crossbow arrows with it when hunting large mammals.

Page 96

Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus. This male was beside the road one evening within the sanctuary. They sometimes feed alongside silver pheasant. They are terrestrial birds but can fly very quickly over short distances to escape danger, though they will also run. They feed on seeds, fruit and insects.

Bluebottle Butterfly Graphium sarpedon. These beautiful butterflies were found on the road in the sanctuary near Tsesawoh stream. They are very common and can be seen taking in minerals along the road.

Page 97

Elongated Tortoise Indotestudo elongatanear. This reptile was found near the road in the sanctuary. Land tortoise are  creatures of ancient origin. As they usually retreat into their shells when danger threatens, they are easy prey for man. Being extremely slow, they are also vulnerable to fire. However, most animals are easily defeated by the adult’s hard exterior. A remarkable creauture, they are regarded as the symbol of longevity. The saying, “slow but sure”, came from their deliberate but confident movement. The sargent butterfly hitching a ride is of the Nymphalidae family. 

Page 98-99

Limestone formation, millions of years old, next to the village of Jakae in the extreme northern part of the sanctuary, highlighting both the permanent and impermanent aspects of Thung Yai. The long-term effect of the village, with its continuing population growth and nearby mining operation, poses a threat to the future of Thailand’s largest wildlife sanctuary. The flora and fauna have been here for thousands of years, long before any humans inhabited the area. Growth of the village needs to be contained, together with limited access to the sanctuary, if man and nature are to coexist in Thung Yai in balanced harmony.




Thailand’s first protected area at the

gateway to the Northeast

PAGE 100 – Photo by: Phairot Lenavat

Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris. Also known as the Indian pied hornbill, they are smaller than the great hornbill. These ostentatious birds with their extremely distinctive “gak-gak-gak-gak-gak” call can be found in evergreen and mixed deciduous forest. Like all hornbill, they are mainly frugivorous (fruit eating) but do take snakes, lizards and various other small animals. They nest in tree holes, and use mud and droppings to reduce the opening while the female raises the young inside the den. If the male food-gatherer is killed, the female and chicks are likely to perish. These forest birds with their huge bills and casques, and their long tails, dominate the forest with their presence.

Khao Yai is Thailand’s longest established national park. Set up in 1962, it is located in the southwest corner of the Korat Plateau, at the western end of the Phanom Dongrak mountain range. One of the Kingdom’s most popular national parks, it encompasses 2,168 square kilometers, with both moist and dry evergreen plus deciduous forest covering about 80 percent of the park. A single paved road runs completely through Khao Yai from Nakhon Nayok province to Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima province. The increased traffic has greatly disturbed wildlife. The park is, however, a popular destination for those people who want convenient access from Bangkok to nature at its best. Thai and foreign tourists visit in great numbers throughout the year.

Several side roads within the park lead to various attractions such as the Haew Narok and Haew Suwat waterfalls, and several mineral licks with wildlife lookout towers. Khao Yai is one of the best places to see elephant, gaur, sambar, barking deer, monkey and gibbon in the wild. Occasionally a tiger is seen here. There are four species of hornbill that are easily seen. Over 300 species of bird have been recorded including Siamese fireback and silver pheasant. Guided tours are available in the park, covering approximately 50 kilometers of marked trails that splay out in all directions from the headquarters area. However, during the rainy season, leeches are a problem but tour operators, offer protective clothing and ointments to ward off the biting invertebrate. 

There are 71 species of mammal recorded here including  gaur, clouded leopard, Asian wild dog, Asiatic black bear, Malayan sun bear, wild pig, civet and mouse deer. Smaller species such as squirrel and bat are predominant.

In the old days, some 60 years ago, settlers within what is now the park hunted and practiced slash and burn agriculture. This left many open areas that are now grassland. The settlers were eventually evicted after the park was created but there have still been many problems with encroachment and poaching. Most recently, real estate developers have tried to ring the park with a new road along which new properties would be built.

In the 1970s, a golf course and resort was established by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in the grassland area. It was quite easy to see wildlife from the links and I was able to play on this course. I lost a lot of golf balls in the dense thickets along the fairways. However, the Royal Forest Department have since closed this down but have allowed development only in the headquarters area. Nonetheless, many developers have encroached on the lower-lying boundaries of the park to build resorts and golf courses. This has had an adverse effect on the local environment and its wildlife. Many people also still live within the boundaries of Khao Yai and it would be extremely difficult to relocate them.

Page 101

Haew Suwat Waterfall. This very popular attraction is visited by tens of thousands of local and foreign tourists each year, either by car or on trail number one from the RFD Kong Kaew headquarters area. 

Recently, an NGO worker was killed in a remote area that was known for poaching and encroachment. The man was cut down in a hail of bullets, thus joining the ranks of the many who have perished while trying to save the Kingdom’s forests.

Thailand’s first gazetted national park should be the role model for other conservation areas in the Kingdom. Given this important heritage, increased efforts by those responsible, need to be made to better manage and save the park from continued misuse, poaching and encroachment. The growing number of visitors and vehicles that pass to and through Khao Yai poses a threat to the wildlife that, instead of flourishing, may disappear, little by little. If this were to occur, it would be a sad outcome for the Kingdom’s earliest protected conservation area.

Page 102

Common Barking Deer M. muntjak. This doe is taking in minerals. They inhabit all types of forest and are the most common deer in Thailand. Their distinctive alarm call, like the bark of a dog but much louder, can be heard over long distances. When escaping from danger, they flip their tails erect in alarm. Solitary for most of the year, they form pairs during the rutting season.

Page 103 – Photo by: Saman Khunkwamdee

Asian Elephant Elephas maximus. It is uncommon to see elephant along the road during the day, but they can occasionally be seen at night with a spotlight. The Royal Forest Department operates night tours from the Kong Kaew headquarters area. Such tours allow one to see nature at work during the night and do no great harm if limited to only a few vehicles. Unfortunately, recently, it has become quite a tourist attraction and traffic jams are a common occurrence.

Sambar C. unicolor. This herd, including the stag and his harem of hinds, was photographed very close to the Kong Kaew headquarters area. The large-billed crow is feeding on ticks off the stag’s shoulder and the red junglefowl is feeding on insects disturbed by the grazing deer. At the time of this photograph, there were 19 animals in the herd separated into two groups. These largest of the deer family in Thailand are common here and can be seen quite easily from the road in the morning and evening as they graze in the grassland. 

Page 105 – Photo by: Saman Khunkwamdee

Asiatic Black Bear Selenarctos thibetanus. This bear was strolling on the old golf course that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) once operated along with resort facilities and a restaurant. This open grassland is the result of slash and burn agriculture that occurred more than 60 years ago. Bear are rare in Thailand due to poaching for their paws, which are used in an Asian culinary dish, and for their bladder, which is used in medicines. These nocturnal and sometimes savage beasts are fast and agile. They can inflict terrible wounds on an attacker. They feed on fruit, buds, invertebrates, small vertebrates and carrion. When erect, the distinctive white vee marking on the chest stands out against the black pelage. This is a rare photo of one of Asia’s two bear species, the other being the Malayan sun bear, the smallest bear in the world.

Photo by: Saman Khunkwamdee

Siamese Fireback Lophura diardi.This beautiful male gallopheasant shows  its magnificent colours. These extremely rare birds are difficult to see let alone photograph. Their range has been drastically reduced due to habitat loss. They are endemic to southeast Thailand and northwest Cambodia. Slimmer than the red junglefowl or silver pheasant, their habits are much the same. They nest on the ground and feed on seeds, fruit and insects.

Page 106 – Photo by: Saman Khunkwamdee

Siamese Fireback L. diardi. This gallopheasant is a female and has black and buff bars on wings and tail. The species is now quite rare, but can still be found in Khao Yai’s evergreen forests. Pheasant are normally very quiet but make noisy, wing-whirring displays.

Page 107

Clerodendrum paniculatum. This flowering plant can be found along side the road to Haew Suwat waterfall, and is common throughout the park during the rainy season. This flowering plant stands out against the green foliage.

Photo by: Saman Khunkwamdee

Greater Flameback Chrysocolaptes lucidus. Known also as the greater golden-back woodpecker. Their range and habitat are the same as the greater yellownape. They inhabit deciduous and evergreen forests. Like many other woodpecker, greater flameback drum with their beaks while perched vertically on a tree. They nest in cavities, usually excavated in trees, and are common residents in the forested areas of Thailand. 

Page 108 – Photo by: Saman Khunkwamdee

Greater Yellownape Picus flavinucha. There are 36 species of woodpecker in Thailand, many with beautiful crests like this bird. Woodpecker are arboreal and usually cling to trees using their stiff tail feathers and sharp claws. They use their strong beaks to lift tree bark in order to reach insects underneath, and to drill holes when making their nests. 

Photo by: Saman Khunkwamdee

Green-billed Malkoha Phaenicophaeus tristis. This mature bird is feeding its chick with what appears to be a grasshopper. The chick has narrowly escaped being taken by a monitor lizard, hence the wound to the neck. An unusual instance in nature where the weaker animal survives and the stronger one loses out.

Page 109 – Photo by: Saman Khunkwamdee

Green Magpie Cissa chinensis. These beautiful coloured birds can be found on the forest floor foraging for insects. This beautifully marked, very noisy and gregarious bird lives in evergreen and deciduous forest. They construct a flimsy, cup-shaped nest. Its red bill, red feet and black eyepatch stand out against its striking chestnut-red wing and bright apple-green plumage. 

Page 110 – Photo by: Boonmee Thanomsuksan

Haew Narok Waterfall in the rainy season. It is Khao Yai’s most impressive waterfall.  These falls have a reputation for dispatching elephant that try to cross upstream and are swept away by the powerful current.

Photo by: Saman Khunkwamdee

White-handed Gibbon H lar. Living mostly in tall trees in evergreen forest, their whooping call as the sun comes up is unmistakable and can be heard from great distance and on most days in Khao Yai. 

Page 111

Pig-tailed Macaque Macaca nemestrina. Thee primates are easily seen by the road to the Kong Kaew headquarters area. They are common throughout the park and, usually begging for food from passing motorists. Feeding forest animals is prohibited, but often occurs. Animals become quite dangerous as a result. This female’s pouch is full of food she has collected. She will chew it thoroughly later. Macaque are omnivorous and eat fruit, seeds, buds, insects, lizards, frogs, molluscs and crabs.




A vast, relatively undisturbed

conservation area and Thailand’s

largest national park

Page 112 – Photo by: Boonmee Thanomsuksan

 Serow Capricornis sumatraensis. This fairly large goat-antelope with long legs in proportion to its body, sharp black horns that sweep upwards and prominent glands below the eyes. Serow have black to grayish coarse hair along their short, thick bodies. These sure-footed Caprinae inhabit steep limestone mountains and cliffs, sheltering in caves. All their senses are acute, their eyesight especially so, which makes them difficult to observe. As long as there is sufficient moisture that they get from the vegetation they eat on the limestone bluffs, they are fairly safe from poachers. 

Situated some 150 kilometers southwest of Bangkok in Phetchaburi province, Kaeng Krachan, at 2,915 square kilometers, is the Kingdom’s largest national park. Gazetted in 1981, this tremendous place contains mostly pristine tropical broad-leaved evergreen forests on extremely steep mountains in the Tenasserim Range. Most of its terrain is so inaccessible that it is still largely unexplored, especially along the border with Myanmar. This is a great area for bird watching and some 250-bird species have been recorded. Greater and pied hornbill is quite common here. Another rare bird seen quite easily here during the breeding season is the great slaty woodpecker.

About 40 species of mammal, including elephant, gaur, tiger, leopard, sambar, barking deer, serow and tapir, can be found here. Fea’s barking deer is extremely rare now in Thailand, and still reported in the interior of Kaeng Krachan. There have been unconfirmed reports that the Sumatran rhinoceros may still exist in the remote areas but this is now doubtful. None have been seen recently, but park staff claim to have seen footprints. These very rare mammals are extremely elusive and cover large areas making it difficult to see them. About 50 years ago, a report one was killed by a local Karen tribesman, in the interior. An extensive survey should be undertaken to determine whether they are here or not. There is a tremendous conservation area next door in Myanmar and if they do exist, they would most probably move back and forth across the border.

Like all conservation areas in the Kingdom, this vital watershed area has not been without problems. However, most of the damage has occurred at lower elevations where local Thais and Karen people have stripped away the forest to grow pineapple, papaya and other cash crops. These forests are mixed deciduous and lowland scrub, mostly in the eastern fringes of the park. The park headquarters area is situated on the Southeastern shores of the Kaeng Krachan reservoir that is the primary water source for lowland farmers.

A single 36-kilometer road enters the park at Khao Sam Yot and goes all the way up to Phanoen Thung mountain trailhead. This road can be very difficult to negotiate during the wet season and is sometimes closed during this period. There are very strict times for vehicles traveling up or down as the dirt road is steep and narrow in places, especially after Ban Krang, the halfway station. The 18-tier Thor Thip waterfall is a good three-hour walk from the 33- kilometer marker through some very steep forests. There are a few trails to the interior but hikers, must be accompanied by park rangers. This can be arranged at Phanoen Thung station.

One could surmise that Kaeng Krachan would be fairly safe in the long term due to its size, inaccessibility and strictly controlled areas. However, poaching does occur in some places. This needs to be addressed. Kaeng Krachan is a magnificent national park, only a couple of hours away from Bangkok. With the opportunity to see much of Thailand’s most beautiful flora and fauna, it should be on every naturalist’s list of places to visit.

Page 113

Silver-breasted Broadbill Serilophus lunatus. This photograph was taken during the breeding season, on the road up from Ban Krang guard station. The thin silver necklace shows this bird is female. She is nesting. This wonderfully coloured bird species is very common here.  

Greater-racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus Paradiseus. These chicks, having outgrown their nest, and left the next day. The adult bird has beautiful elongated tail feathers that flitter as they fly. Of all the seven species of drongo found in Thailand, all have black plumage except the Ashy drongo which is slate gray. The greater-racket-tailed drongo has a very pronounced crest on its head. It is a prodigious mimic which can imitate the call of other birds, especially the blue-winged pitta and green magpie. It hunts from a perch and feeds on insects caught on the wing.

Page 115

Green Magpie Cissa chinensis. This female is on her nest during the breeding season. These beautiful birds are easy to see at this time as they build their flimsy nests around Ban Krang guard station. Out of the breeding season, however, they are difficult to observe.

Page 116

Common Tree Frog Polypedates leucomystax. This pair are spawning next to the road. They are so involved in their activities that the author is able to approach quite close. The female, clinging to a branch that overhangs a pool of water, produces hundreds of eggs, which the male fertilizes with sperm while they drop into water, eventually to become tadpoles. The male frog is smaller and darker than the female and, once fertilization is complete, it will leap off her back.

Photo by: Saman Khunkwamdee

Large Indian Civet Viverra zibetha. This female civet was photographed at night near Ban Krang guard station. This medium-sized carnivore is common throughout Thailand but, like the porcupine, is hunted for its meat. Civet breed twice a year. This female, heavily pregnant, is looking for a meal.

Page 117

Malayan Porcupine Hystrix brachyura. These rodents come at night, close to Ban Krang guard station looking for food scarped. This nocturnal burrowing animal’s natural diet consists of roots, tubers, bark and fallen fruit. It is common here, but heavily poached for its meat. Any tiger that attacks it may become permanently maimed as the porcupine’s quills can perforate the tiger’s paws and chest.

Page 118 – Photo by: Boonmee Thanomsuksan

Hill evergreen forest in Kaeng Krachan. This moss-covered stream is near Phanoen Thung mountain trailhead and is visited by many small animals like tiger, civet and porcupine.

Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis. One of Thailand’s largest birds, photographed in the lower branches of a tree near Ban Krang guard station. These large birds are very common in the park, along with their cousin, the oriental pied hornbill. The female, nesting in a tree hollow, stays with her chicks from the moment they are born until they are ready to fly. In flight, this species make a loud swishing noise. Hornbill are poached mainly for meat, and their bills are used as ornaments.

Page 119 – Photo by: Phairot Lenavat

Great Slaty Woodpecker Muelleripicus pulverulentus. These birds are the largest of the ‘Old World’ woodpeckers and are rather plain-looking unlike other brightly coloured woodpecker species. Found in only a few of Thailand’s forests, their remarkable call, a sort of whinnying or braying sound, is readily heard, though the birds themselves are rarely seen. They have very strong beaks like other woodpeckers, but do not drum looking for insects. 




Hidden beauty in western Thailand

Page 120

Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bat Cynopterus brachyotis. One of 109 species of bat in Thailand, this fruit eater also takes pollen and insects. They roost almost anywhere — in trees, under the eaves of houses, in caves, and under palm and banana fronds. This species is very common throughout the Kingdom.

 A part from its popular waterfalls and river trips, this national park is not that well known. Situated in Kanchanaburi province, along Thailand’s western border with Myanmar, its interior is truly a magnificent wildlife paradise. It may not remain so for long, however, as poaching and forest encroachment continue unabated. The headquarters of the park is at Sai Yok Yai (big Sai Yok) waterfall, about one hundred kilometers upstream from Kanchanaburi on the Khwae Noi River. This area is visited by thousands of local and foreign tourists every year. They come to see this waterfall and the smaller Sai Yok Noi waterfall, both of which are only a short distance off Highway 323, going north. Activities on the river include swimming, rafting and boating.

Deep inside the park, however, the world’s smallest mammal, Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, is found in just a few caves along the remote Mae Nam Noi River. This creature is endemic to the area and probably neighbouring Myanmar. The bat weighs barely two grams. Aptly, it has been called the bumblebee bat and has an average wingspan of just three inches. It uses sonar to forage for insects during short periods each night — about 20 minutes — in the evening and again just before dawn. Its numbers are so small that it is highly endangered. This remarkable mammal has in fact been listed as one of the world’s twelve most endangered animals. 

Also found in this same area is the ‘regal crab’ or ‘queen crab’, known locally as the ‘three-coloured crab’. With their white body, purple stripe down the back, and red legs, regal crab are truly a pretty sight. They live like most crab, in holes, which they dig along the banks of the Mae Nam Noi River. They come out at night to forage for food. Now small in number, this is yet another species that is seriously endangered and needs protection. Fortunately, the locals in the Mae Nam Noi district have stopped eating them since they were named after Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. They are now protecting the few crab that are left. This is a case of true conservation. Hopefully, the species will survive.

Elephant, gaur, tiger and leopard, plus many other species still survive here, but their numbers are dwindling. Sambar, serow, barking deer, tapir and wild pig are here too and constitute the main prey species for the tiger and leopard. Asian black bear and Malayan sun bear plus many smaller species like civet, porcupine, gibbon and monkey are all here but they too are threatened.

Like most national parks in Thailand, Sai Yok is a target for poaching and logging which seem to go hand in hand. Most of the wildlife is hunted for trophies and meat, primarily during the dry season when there is good road access. It is common to see poachers in the park, cruising along the roads in vehicles or on motorcycles, with long guns for all to see.

Page 121

Kitti’s Hog-nosed Bat Craseonycteris thonglongyai. The world’s smallest mammal, these little creatures live along the border with Burma in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex. Sai Yok National Park is one of 18 protected areas in the complex. They roost in total darkness, deep within a few caves along the Mae Nam Noi river. They are very rare and extremely endangered.

Illegal logging has been carried out along the Mae Nam Noi and Mae Nam Lo rivers. This has seriously eroded their banks. Consequently, during the rainy season, the area is extremely dangerous due to the tremendous power created by the torrential flow of water. Other forms of encroachment include cattle and buffalo corrals that are set up deep in the forest where fodder is easily available. Constant poaching and encroachment is affecting the status of the park’s wildlife and watershed.

The forests at Sai Yok are mostly tropical broad-leaved evergreen with much bamboo and mixed deciduous woodlands in the foothills. The highest peak, Khao Khewa, at 1,327 meters above sea level, is part of the Tenasserim Range that runs through the park from north to south. The area was formerly logged so the park has many thin patches where big trees were felled. However, heavy brush continues to grow back strongly in these areas.

During the height of the rainy season, between July and October, the wildlife in Sai Yok roams and feeds fairly safely due to the rough weather and the almost impenetrable terrain. The rivers and streams in the area become raging torrents that make crossing next to impossible. About the only way in is by motorboat, with a very skilled operator, near the beginning or end of the rainy season in June/July or October/November respectively. Many a boat and raft has been washed away in rapids on the Mae Nam Noi and Mae Nam Lo rivers.  Occasionally, 4×4 off-road vehicles become stuck in the park after heavy rain. Some have even had to wait until the dry season to get out. Elephant love those vehicles left behind and will rip them apart for fun.

Another very important aspect of Sai Yok is that some gaur and elephant come across the border from Myanmar to feed on bamboo shoots in August and September, and then return to the safety of the other side prior to the dry season. Equally interesting, there are unofficial reports that a hybrid cattle, possibly a cross between gaur and banteng have been seen by locals. The numbers of all animals are dwindling, however, due to increased activity in the park. Just a decade ago, green peafowl could be found here but they have been neither seen nor heard for several years. The ever-shrinking wilderness area of Sai Yok is under a threat that must be addressed if its flora and fauna are to survive intact.

The future of Sai Yok as one of Thailand’s most beautiful and important national parks depends in great measure on the Department of National Parks and the Royal Forest Department, and their ability to enforce the law. Reportedly, greater efforts are being made to protect the park. Some poachers have recently been arrested but such campaigns can be difficult to sustain. The long-term effects will become clear over time. It is to be hoped that this magnificent wilderness and its wildlife will survive. In particular, the home of the world’s smallest mammal needs serious attention and protection. It would be sad for Thailand if this prestigious mammal were to be lost to the world forever.  

Page 122-123

Regal Crab Thaiphusa sirikit. These fresh water crabs have just been recently found species of Thai crustacean, and is endemic to the Mae Nam Noi River in Sai Yok. Unfortunately, these beautiful little creatures are endangered. However, since being named after Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the local people are now protecting them. Hopefully, they will survive. But their future also depends on how much of their habitat will survive. Severe erosion along this river and its tributaries threatens the species. 

Page 123

Mae Nam Noi. This river is home to the Regal Crab and Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, not far from where the waterway joins the Khwae Noi River, close to RFD park headquarters. This gateway to Sai Yok’s beauty needs to be carefully guarded if the park and its wildlife are to survive into the future.

Page 125

Crab-eating Macaque Macaca fascicularis. Thses two primates were photographed by the Mae Nam Lo River in the southwestern section of the park. A troop of some 15 macaque came down to drink and feed on berries. They have the longest tails among the five species of macaque found in Thailand. They exhibit two color phases, grayish-brown and reddish, depending on age, season and location. They enjoy water and are expert swimmers. Their diet consists of fruit, seeds, buds, small reptiles, amphibians, molluscs and crabs. Like most primates, they continually groom each other, searching for pieces of dried skin, loose hair, ticks and fleas

Long-nosed Whip Snake Ahaetulla nasuta. This long, thin snake can actually stretch itself as it moves through the trees. Photographed on the Mae Nam Lo River in the southern section of the park, it’s a rear-fanged snake and slightly poisonous. Its diet consists of birds, amphibians and other reptiles.

Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium cuculoides.These nocturnal birds are rarely seen in broad daylight but, occasionally, they come out looking for prey, late in the day. Of Thailand’s 19 species of owl, the Asian barred owlet is among the smallest and found almost everywhere in Thailand. Their diet consists of other birds, rats and mice, plus other small animals. 

Page 126

Waterfall on the Mae Nam Noi River, close to the park headquarters. Most visitors do not get this far, but occasionally some do. A series of limestone caves in the forest, away from the waterfall, harbour Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, and the regal crabs is found along tributary streams. Both the crab and bat are seriously endangered.

Page 127

Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus. Photographed by the Mae Nam Noi River in the afternoon by her nest where she is incubating a clutch of eggs. Also known as the spangled drongo, these birds have a distinctive fishtail with curled rackets. The glossy metallic blue-green sheen on their upperparts can be seen clearly. They feed primarily on insects. 

Page 128-129

Cave-dwelling Nectar-eating Bat Eonycteris spelaeain. This cave is close to the Mae Nam Noi River in the northern sector of the park, and is about 100 meters above the river. The bats have been seriously disturbed by humans wanting to eat them using mist-nets to capture the flying mammals on the way out in the evening and back in during the morning. But the cave still contains three or four species of bat, including the smallest mammal in the world, the Kitti’s hog-nosed bat.  

Page 130

Cave-dwelling Snake Elaphe taeniura. A reptile in a cave above the Mae Nam Noi River. This snake, about two meters long, is hanging from the cave ceiling, trying to catch roundleaf bat as they fly by.

Page 131

Roundleaf Bat of the Hipposideridae family. This one of hundreds of bats in a cave very close to the Mae Nam Noi River, in the northern sector of the park. These bats are insectivorous hunting insects at night and sleeping in the cave during the day.


Comments are closed.