Natural World Heritage, Home of the Indochinese Tiger

The Thung Yai – Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuaries were recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1991. Stretching across 17 contiguous protected areas, covering about 1,800 square kilometers and extending into the Myanmar border along the Tennaserim Range, they are regarded as the largest remaining forest track in mainland Southeast Asia under Thailand’s Western Complex. 

Raising the level of its importance in the eyes of the world, a lot of wildlife research is taking place in this forest complex. One of the most outstanding and internationally recognized research areas is the ongoing study of tigers’ ecology and population monitoring.

It is estimated that there are about 140-180 Indochinese tigers in Thailand, and their numbers continue to increase. The naming of the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest complex in 2005, and the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex in 2021, as World Heritage sites are raising hopes that the tiger population in Thailand will continue to grow.
Photo: ©Baramee Temboonkiat 


Story: Radda Larpnun/ Baramee Temboonkiat 
Photos: Baramee Temboonkiat
The Photo Essay series: SDGs I The Depth of Field
MARCH 27, 2023

Thailand has abundant natural resources — forests, water, coastal, and geological — that have become one of the key engines of growth of the Thai economy. However, Thailand is also facing challenges of natural resource degradation, including loss of biodiversity, threats to plant diversity, adverse impacts from climate change, and the risk of disasters such as storms, floods, drought, desertification, and air pollution

The government is concerned and committed to the conservation, recovery, and sustainable use of natural resources and has gradually increased the environmental budget each year, aiming to develop green spaces equivalent to 55 per cent of the country’s total land area as cited in the 20-year National Strategy (2012-2037).

Moreover, the government targets forest conservation in no less than 25 per cent of the total land area, according to the 12th National Economic and Social Development Plan (2017-2022), which expanded forest conservation from 66.06 million rai (10.56 hectares) in 2006 to 72.69 million rai (11.63ha) including 22 national parks equivalent to 23 per cent of the entire land area. However, total forest area in Thailand has not increased since 2004.

The loss of biodiversity remains one of the most significant challenges for Thailand, with several animal species now endangered and invasive alien species remaining a key factor. Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Thailand showed an improvement in 2022, and wildlife trafficking cases decreased to only 28 cases, a huge drop from 600 in 2009. (Thailand’s Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development 202)

In the Sustainable Development Report (2022), “From crisis to sustainable development, the SDGs as Roadmap to 2023 and beyond”, SDG 15: Life on Land trends reported that Thailand was in the significant chain with score stagnation increasing at less than 50% of required area.

Protecting terrestrial sites is important to biodiversity and conservation of freshwater areas is vital to biodiversity. The red list index of species survival is still significant, and major challenges remain. While the challenges of permanent deforestation remain, Thailand is on track on maintaining SDG achievement, and Key Biodiversity Areas (important for global biodiversity) are protected.

Thailand has advanced in forest and wildlife management, increasing stakeholders’ engagement driven by the civic society to policy advocacy. It includes an areas-based approach, wildlife population rehabilitation and wildlife conservation awareness raising. However, as a consequence of efficiently protecting key biodiversity areas, we recently found that overpopulation with human and wildlife conflict is the new challenge that gradually occurs in many boundary areas, particularly human and elephant conflict.

The challenges of this goal for Thailand are preserving the wildlife habitat, preventing, and suppressing encroachment and destruction of habitats and preventing wildlife trade.

This photo essay set presents wildlife and habitat threats with hard effort in balancing human and wildlife living in harmony.

From ‘bloody ivory’ to the 20th Reserved Wild Animal of Thailand

Information from the Hornbill Ecology Study Project since 1994 found 22 nesting trees of pairs of helmeted hornbills in the Budo mountains, in the South of Thailand. The nest areas are unique as the feeding is from the top, which differs from those of other hornbills, as the hornbill has a heavy protrusion.

Forty-four parent hornbills have successfully reared their young birds from their burrows. The increasing number is due to the community cooperating to help conserve birds. In the Bang Lang National Park, Yala province, southern Thailand, the project has started a population survey, different from foreign countries where hunting is almost extinct, as their numbers have decreased quickly. The solid nodule “blood ivory” is still in demand in the market. The penalty for trafficking in the bird will be higher as the helmeted hornbill has been elevated to reserved wildlife No. 20, leading to other conservation plans and a master plan for conservation, including more intensive care of habitats.
Photo: ©Baramee Temboonkiat 

Knob-billed duck’s shelter, a space for nature

Five years ago, Mr. Waisak Poolsawat rented 300 rai (48ha) of land that had no water or electricity. In the past, it was almost a waste dump in the Ranot district of Songkhla province, southern Thailand. After the first year of rice farming, many kinds of birds existed. Some people came to hunt the birds in the field, but he chased them away because he liked the coexistence of many bird species. Usually, the birds go down to the paddy fields and get chased away because they want to eat the rice seeds that are to be sown. Once the seeds are sown, it is safe. In the first year, three knob-billed ducks stopped by during the migration season. As the birds felt secure, they started visiting every year, gradually increasing in number. The old rice fields in this area still have a lot of sugar palm trees where the birds can be found nesting. Recently, there has been a proliferation in the numbers of some birds from single digit to thousands. The 300-rai rice field has been developed into a tourism destination because various birds and otters live in the fields. Therefore, the area was upgraded to a protected area. And it was announced to celebrate Ranot’s love for the knob-billed duck.
Photo: ©Baramee Temboonkiat 

Crisis of stranded monkeys when nature is out of balance.

Thousands of macaques live on Kret Kaew Island, the small island off the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. They can eat plants, catch crabs, and eat snails. They get their nutrition from the various fruits foreign tourists carry with them when they take a boat from Pattaya to visit this Monkey Island. During the Covid-19 pandemic, as tourists and predators stayed away, the monkey population increased steadily. On the island, there is no water resource. The short-term solution is to collect food and bring water tanks to collect rainwater. But for the long-term, we need a proper plan to control their population. 
Photo: ©Baramee Temboonkiat 

Cranes from the zoo to their original habitats
All crane species in the world are threatened, and some are endangered. In Thailand, they became extinct due to hunting and habitat destruction. Under The Zoological Park Organization of Thailand, the Nakhon Si Thammarat Zoo has begun breeding cranes from donated breeders. It took up to seven years to get the first set of two young birds in 1997. Later, using artificial insemination, 30-40 pairs were bred with a birth rate of 20 young birds per year. As a result, more than 140 birds have been gradually returned to the wetlands of Buri Ram province. Cranes indicate the area’s fertility because large predators have to live in large areas with abundance. Fifty years later, their unique flirtatious calls have returned to the vast fields. Their migration is also drawing tourists and bringing income to the community.
Photo: ©Baramee Temboonkiat 
From conflict to tourism
In the past, the wild elephants of Kuiburi National Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, would stray out of the park’s territorial area and invade orchards to eat pineapples grown by the local villagers. This often led to confrontation. Sometimes the elephants attacked people and killed them, and sometimes the people shot the wild elephants. Farmers eventually had to start building an electric fence to prevent elephants from entering their fields. Later, the area was developed inside the national park with more water wells built, arranging water storage to replenish water supplies for the wildlife during drought. Finally, elephant food crops and artificial salt licks were created. Nowadays, villagers in the adjacent area have become tour guides showing people wild elephants and gaurs, Thailand’s only safari-style travel activity.
Photo: ©Baramee Temboonkiat 
How a community spawned a conservation project
The “Build a home for the Serows, Return the forest to the earth” project is the result of the strength of the community that has continued for almost 20 years. Villagers united to oppose a mining concession in the Khao Phra Phutthabat Noi-Khao Khamin forest area in Saraburi province to preserve it as a home for serows, a goat-like animal, as reserved wildlife. The project also pumps groundwater from solar energy to the top of the mountain to increase water sources for wildlife during drought while wireless CCTV cameras capture pictures to check the population, including surveillance of hunters. In addition, agricultural areas have been converted into sunflower fields from conservation and development to tourist attractions.
Photo: ©Baramee Temboonkiat 
Goral, a habitat that overlaps with tourism
Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai province has beautiful scenery and plenty of rare and endemic plants, bringing large numbers of tourists to the area each year. There are measures in place to ensure the tourist numbers are manageable. All tourists must undergo training before going up the hill. There is an off-season for nature to recover, and some tourist routes are closed to restore the deer’s habitat as a measure of living in harmony with nature.
Photo: ©Baramee Temboonkiat 

A home for the smooth-coated otter 

Their habitat has been destroyed and transformed into farmland, fish ponds and often people fishing in the ponds. The Backyard Otter is a private conservation area created for a family of smooth-coated otters in Samut Prakan province, which has set up viewing blinds to spy on their behavior, becoming an eco-tourism destination in the process. The visit of the otters to nest and eat the fish in the pond draws numerous photographers. The otter has a place to live, and the pond owner gains revenue from tourists to compensate for the loss of fish from the pond. So, tourists get lovely pictures of them.
Photo: ©Baramee Temboonkiat 

Gaurs gain from non-hunting area declaration
The increase in the number of gaurs at Khao Phaeng Ma in Nakhon Ratchasima province can be directly attributed to their habitat being declared a non-hunting area. There is precise area boundary management, and food sources are managed, including the villagers giving up hunting and turning it into a tourist destination. The gaur leaves the area to live on the abandoned farm and returns to the area early in the morning. If any of them enter the agricultural area, the villagers notify the officials who push the gaur back into the forest. The gaur population will increase due to plans to push the limits back up to Khao Yai and Phu Luang-Wang Nam Kheaow, which are adjacent borders.
Photo: ©Baramee Temboonkiat 
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 15: Life on Land)
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Since being conceived in 1992 during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, “sustainable development” has become a buzzword that has helped guide development around the world. The goals have followed a steady trajectory of increased emphasis — from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, strengthening the world’s new development paradigm. At the heart of the SDGs addressed by the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are 17 key goals that call for action by all countries to end poverty and other deprivations. These must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth — all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests, according to the UN. The only challenge is: how to translate all those goals into a strong commitment and action. To flesh out the ideas so that people can understand them easily and therefore take action, Bangkok Tribune has come up with a new project: “SDGs I The Depth of Field”, using its signature style of photojournalism — storytelling through photo essays — to interpret and translate the ideas and challenges behind the goals into powerful visual stories told through the lenses of noted photographers.