When it was established in 1962 Khao Yai became Thailand's first National Park. Today there are over 100 parks, but the estimated 150 or so tigers in the country are primarily limited to eight areas, with a scattering of cats over perhaps another eight.
Wildlife at Khao Yai National Park is abundant and 295 species of mammal, bird, insect and reptile make their homes here. Most of the existing roads and trails were migratory paths followed by elephants. During the dry season the park's 200-300 elephants still follow these as they move between feeding areas or salt licks. Other residents of the park include gaur, Malayan sun bear, Asiatic black bear, serow, gibbons and macaques. Caves hold wrinkle-lipped and Himalayan ribbed bats while Thailand's largest population of hornbills feed on figs from the ficus trees. Perhaps we shouldn't forget the visitors best friends: blood sucking leeches and mosquitos, the first of which are very difficult to kill.
The Corbett's tigers are a surprise in that they can appear quite close to park headquarters. In the same vicinity sambar deer can be found quietly feeding in small groups. A sign at the visitor centre warns:
"Should you leave your sleeping quarters late at night while tigers are feeding nearby, you will most certainly be injured or killed."
hunted by both tigers and leopards, but these are not their
primary predator. Man has taken over that role. As a result,
sambar are now only common in well protected conservation zones.
Elephant are targeted for ivory and in the Khao Yai visitors' centre stands a
mounted one month-old baby elephant which starved to death after poachers removed
it from its mother. The aloewood tree
is poached of its bark, this is used as perfume and incense. Such
is its desirability that aloewood presently
commands prices exceeding that of gold.
Tigers too are under severe threat from the same source. Experts had long considered that about 500 tigers lived in the National Parks of Thailand, but when conservationists mounted camera traps in the Khao Yai National Park only two tigers were captured on film. Along with these were hundreds of poachers looking for exotic birds, sambar, gaur and the few remaining tigers which are now worth more dead than alive. Most of the poachers were from villages surrounding the park. The final conclusion was that probably less than ten tigers remain in Khao Yai, a sobering thought considering this was once one of the most important tiger habitats, and they appeared to be reasonably stable here. Two subsequent examinations of other parks have produced the same result: the density of tigers is a great deal less than previously thought.
Positive steps are being taken in an effort to control poaching. For the first time, rangers are being provided with guns and trained in their usage. They now learn various anti-poaching techniques and wildlife law. But poachers are well armed and one recent gunfire battle saw both ranger and poacher (who had an AK-47) killed. Another technique is to employ some of the poachers in ranger positions; this gives access to inside information, breaks the family poaching cycle and encourages other villagers to get behind conservation projects.
With Thanks To Broderbund (Photo 3)