Wildlife in the north of Thailand

25 Aug 2013 16:39 - 26 Aug 2013 07:07 #1303 by john floth
john floth created the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
Dear all

I am a Student doing an internship at a hotel in the far North of Thailand,in Thaton which is near Fang to the west and Chiang rai an hour and a half to the east. I am pretty obsessed with wildlife to be honest! mainly mammals and reptiles. I am working here for 5 months and I usally get 2 days of a week where i go trekking around the border forests. I have so far seen tokay, many small lizards and geckos, squirrels and some small snakes (various non venemous species). Around the border there are many hilltribes that have, as far as im concerned, pretty much wiped out any obvious large game. I am a keen tracker and I havent even seen a single mammal track in the forests, I've found plenty of plastic bags and bottels instead...

I was wondering whether anyone on this site could help me in finding a place where I could observe wild mammals (actual wildlife not drugged tiger kingdom or riding tame elephants which most tourists cosider wildlife) near Thaton. I am not really financially or time wise capable of going to khao yai or any of the famous places for the weekend because its just too far away. Doi pha hom pok national park (mae fang) is very close to where I am but I heard from other trekkers that that place is pretty poached out, can anyone tell me of a place around here thats still really wild that I could visit for a day or two by bus ????
Thank you!!!

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26 Aug 2013 00:04 #1307 by onflipflops
onflipflops replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
Hoping to hear some good suggestions too. But I can't help you. The only larger mammal I've seen in the North was Goral at Doi Inthanon.

Even though I did not see anything that I remember, maybe Sri Lanna national park could be interesting. It's just a guess/ feeling I got from my short visit.

And for snakes. I did a short night walk on a trail from the camping ground along the waterfalls in Doi Luang national park and found 4 Pope's Pit Vipers (could be these days it might be considered a different species, but anyway beautiful green pit vipers with a bright red ventral line all the way to the eye.)

That's my little experience in the North.

I did enjoy climbing the mountains of Chiang Dao, even without seeing any wildlife.

But anyway, I'm afraid you ended up in the wrong region... wildlife-wise. But I hope I'm wrong

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26 Aug 2013 13:06 #1311 by Bagheera
Bagheera replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
There are many people more qualified and informed than me to give a better answer however I will give my 2 cents anyway.

From my experience there are very few medium to large size mammals in the north of thailand. I spent 6 years in Chiang Mai, much of it spent in the forest on mountain bikes, dirt bikes and trekking and the only thing I have heard of being seen apart from various squirrel species are civets. Personally I never saw them myself but friends have reported seeing these civets on Doi Sutthep and also in the forest to the west of Chiang Dao.

In Doi Pha Hom Pok there is a off road track that we used to use that skirts the burmese border. Along the way we used to pass a few Thai army outposts and the soldiers there have told me they have seen bears and tigers however considering the source and the way Thai's sometimes loosely use the word (เสือ / seua ) this is very unreliable evidence and whilst I don't doubt that they may have seen them at one point in time it is highly unlikely that if there is such a population it is either safe or breeding.

I believe that there is a section on Bruce Kekule's website on the North of thailand where he has documented wild dogs and goral, maybe it is worth having a look to get an idea of what/ what not to expect.

There are 1000's of hill tribe villages in the North and hunting/poaching is rampant, slash/burn agriculture is also prevalent and whilst certain areas still remain nicely forested it is difficult to imagine many mammals thriving there especially larger ones.

Reptiles is something you may have more luck with. I have seen King Cobra, banded kraits, reticulated pythons and plenty of other species of snakes all within a short distance of Chiang Mai. Failing that, maybe it is time to take up an active interest in Birds!

If you have time, perhaps you could try visiting Mae Wong National Park which is about 4 hours drive from Chiang Mai between Kamphaeng Phet and Nakorn Sawan.

There is a possibility I will be moving back to Chiang Mai in the near future and I too am interested to know other peoples views on this subject. I would love for me and onflipflops to be wrong but I fear the situation is not good...

P.S on a side note I would be very careful walking the extreme border regions around Tha Ton, the area is awash with drug traffickers and it would be wise to carry identification on you in case you are stopped/ questioned by the border patrols.

Regards

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26 Aug 2013 15:34 #1314 by john floth
john floth replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
Dear all thankyou for your quick Responses, I did,nt expect to get any to be honest!
I was dreading that sort of answer...
I mean Ive been tracking game pretty much all my life (grew up in a nature reserve in Germany), and the fact that even in the thickest Areas ive looked i cant even find a single deer trail or markings is a pretty bad sign I think. Ive spoken to many of my colleagues in the Hotel that say they often go hunting at night for rabbits (probably hares i would say) and squirrels, not because they are hungry but they say its an ancient Thai Tradition (with a shotgun hmmm) but they stopped when the border started becoming dangerous. They now often go around the mae fang national park because they Claim it is allowed and nobody stops them. They told me they never saw deer, pigs, monkeys or anything else that was large and that it was extremely rare to find a Civet. When I told them how People hunt in Germany (sustainably, seasons, culling etc.) they really did not understand.I guess education is once again the biggest factor in saving the enviroment, its frustrating, because the People around here clearly do have enough Food even if they are not well of and it doesnt seem like anyone really cares about stopping them from hunting.
I guess ill have to try and get 4 days of together and then work for more afterwards because its really not easy getting anywhere that is far away and back with just two days of a week.

I was Aware that northern Thailand was not the wildlife Region of the Country but its the only place I got an internship Placement which I needed for my degree. I honestly did not think it would be this dead though.

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26 Aug 2013 20:42 - 26 Aug 2013 21:02 #1318 by Painted Jezebel
Painted Jezebel replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand

john floth wrote: I was Aware that northern Thailand was not the wildlife Region of the Country but its the only place I got an internship Placement which I needed for my degree. I honestly did not think it would be this dead though.


You are far better being up north than in the south (below Kaeng Kracheng). Northern Thailand, on the Burmese or Laos border is one of the better places to go if you want to stay away from the well known and busy parks like Khao Yai, or Pang Sida. It is very, very much better than the south where I live. Try going to Khao Sok, Khao Phanom Bencha or Khao Luang (the best known southern areas that are safe to visit ), you will not see anything larger than birds, reptiles or insects, not even deers (the occasional Long-Tailed Macacque and that would be it).

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26 Aug 2013 23:52 #1321 by onflipflops
onflipflops replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
I think I need to dissagree a little with that. At least, the Khao Sok part. Even though very little experienced, I've been to Khao Sok once (4 years ago). Got to see macaques, langurs, wild boar, slow loris, palm civet, mouse deer, and heard elephants, though I can imagine that it's not the easiest place to come accross elephants.
And not too long ago the news was showing grazing Gaurs in open areas on the shores of the big reservoir.
I do agree that it's easier to see something in Khao Yai. But I think the North is much worse than Khao Sok.

Khao Phanom Bencha, only remember seeing a slow loris, and 3 poachers... it's a long story, something about getting lost, walking into poachers in the dark, and them helping me out of the jungle rather than shooting me and/ or the slow loris that we came accross... friendly guys, and I was 'happy' to meet them in a rather desperate situation. Saved me from spending an unprepared night in a very dark jungle.
No idea what they were after.

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27 Aug 2013 08:18 #1324 by Painted Jezebel
Painted Jezebel replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
I am delighted to read that you were able to see some species. I did not intend to give the impression that larger animals are not there, but more that they are low in numbers and very difficult to see. I go there several times a year (not near the reservoir), and whilst I have seen a large amount of recent elephant activity, never actually seen a specimen. The other species you mention, never a sign, I can not even recall civet droppings.

You have depressed me with your confirmation that the far north is that bad, I had always thought it was a hotspot, and was considering a visit there next year.

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27 Aug 2013 13:20 #1331 by john floth
john floth replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
to Bagheera. I too am surprised and impressed at how much forest remains on the hills in the North, especially the unprotected parts, but I can confirm from what ive seen ist very difficult to find aything large in there.

I guess my best Options are to go further afield. I will probably only have 2 or maybe 3 days to go to an area far from the North, could anyone give me any advice on where I would have the best chances of seeing something large (elephant,guar,gibbons etc)somewhere in Thailand if I went for a drive trek for a day and maybe give me advice for a route to take?

any help would be hugely appreciated!

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28 Aug 2013 15:35 #1341 by john floth
john floth replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
In Addition, Does anyone think it is worth going to the central part of Burma or the North of Laos (nam Ha national park) to look for wildlife? if so, how Long should i go and where abouts?

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29 Aug 2013 09:05 - 29 Aug 2013 14:52 #1343 by Paul TW
Paul TW replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
I have no experience with the North, Burma or Laos but have just posted something in the "library" section of this forum that may help you a little in your search, the "Red List" and "Thailand Mammals Listing" posts should help.

For the sake of ease, you should probably be heading for somewhere with Elephants. Discount Sanctuaries because there are access restrictions that can seriously complicate a trip plan. You don't want some complication killing off your trip if its a major trip for you. Stick to National Parks. The closest to you that I have been to and you would have a "chance" of seeing something big would be Mae Wong, Nam Nao (a side trip to Phu Khieo would be worth considering - its a sanctuary but anyone can enter the main section after 8 a.m.) and Thung Salaeng Luang. Local support and a guide may be difficult to arrange.

BUT there are so many variables and as everyone here will attest there is much much more chance you will not see something than there is that you will see something (as far as big mammals go).

In terms of central Thailand, then IMHO your best chance to get local support, no access issues and a chance at a large mammal are Khao Yai, Pang Sida, Kaeng Krachan and Kui Buri. Of those four, Kui Buri is the only place I have been were I have seen a big mammal on every visit. You could do Kui Buri and Kaeng Krachan on the same trip as they are in the same location. There is another post in the forum in which Jonathan gives a very good description of Kui Buri and how to visit there. There's also lots posted on Kaeng Krachan in other posts.

I would personally recommend a trip to Kaeng Krachan and Kui Buri (note: Kaeng Krachan is closed until November), alternatively a trip to Khao Yai but visiting the main park area and one of the substations (or Pang Sida) known for Gaur sightings. IMHO that would be your best chance of actually seeing something big in Thailand. You will have a better chance of seeing something when the rainy season is over. But keep in mind you may not see anything. All of these parks are full of animals but the nature of their survival is to avoid being seen, and the nature of the forest is to hide everything from view.

I go to these places most weekends but have developed a somewhat holistic attitude to being in the forest, I just enjoy being there, in the rawness and complication of the forest itself. Developing an interest in Arthropods virtually guarantees, like for birders also, that I will see something that will interest me, when its not dry dry.. Mammals are icing on the cake. And that cake is sometimes a rare luxury.

You will need to think about logistics and possibly a guide also.

Keep in mind, of course, that to get to Kui Buri from Pai is a HUGE drive and not doable in a day safely. Kaeng Krachan is 3-3.5 hours from Bangkok and Kui Buri is about 4.5/5 hours. Pai to Bangkok must be about 14 hours (??).

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30 Aug 2013 00:25 #1344 by onflipflops
onflipflops replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
I agree with Trekker.
Don't expect to see anything. But if you go to any of the parks mentioned by Trekker you will surely find tracks of large wildlife. And that's exciting in itself. Elephant tracks, bear claw marks, wild boar tracks are easily found, and every now and then there are foot prints of carnivores or e.g. porcupines. It shows you're on the right spot, even though it's not so likely that you get to see any of these animals.
I do a LOT of hiking in Khao Yai, but can still pretty much remember every single elephant encounter on the trails in the forest. While I definitely can't count how often I've seen elephants on the roads/ in the open areas in Khao Yai. I think the encounters in the forest are less than 5% of all sightings.
The road heading to Haew Narok waterfall is probably the best for elephants. Especially around the two saltlicks. Though, they are seen throughout the whole park. A late afternoon drive could be successfull. December - February elephants seem to be seen a bit more frequently.
Gaur is not so easy, though if you visit in the months April - May they can be found almost daily in the more quiet grasslands (Usually after 17:30). In the wet season I haven't had much luck with Gaur. Tracks show they seem to spread more through the forest and seem to be less dependent on the open grasslands.
Though Kui Buri might offer a better chance for both elephant and gaur, but I can't confirm that; haven't been there yet.

Gibbons (especially White-handed Gibbon) and Black Giant squirrels are often seen on the hikes and even in the taller forest along the roads (especially the stretch between the first viewpoint (on Pak Chong side) and the visitor center. A local guide will definitely make a big difference as they know the gibbon territories, fruiting trees, sounds of the jungle. But if you're like me, finding the animals is half the fun. If somebody else points it out to you, it's still great to see the animal, but it can't beat your own findings.

Don't neccessarily avoid the popular trails. E.g. for gibbons, if you stick to trails that are often visited by people, the gibbon family groups are quite used to seeing people. They are not tame as the macaques on the roads, but at least they might give you a chance to take a picture. The deeper you go in the forest the more shy the animals are. They will often be gone before you can actually see them. And all wildlife including the more exciting stuff like bears, elephants, and even some of the cats are seen on even the most popular trails.

Sambar, Indian Muntjac, and Northern Pig-tail Macaques are quaranteed in Khao Yai, but therefore not the most exciting. Though I always enjoy it if I encounter any of these species on a trail in the forest. Actually I might have seen more elephants on the trails than Sambar deer, haha...

Malayan Porcupine, Small Indian Civet and Asian Palm Civet are often seen on the night safari (though you need luck to get a good (slow) driver and a dedicated spotlighter). Costs are 500 baht for a private car, which is definitely a better option than the 50 baht join-in truck that often doesn't seem to stop for anything small like a civet...

Visit for as many days as you can. Time is the key to success!
Good luck!

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01 Sep 2013 07:06 #1347 by admin
admin replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
Some great points and info there, onflipflops.

Very good idea to point out that one would see lots of signs and tracks

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01 Sep 2013 12:06 #1354 by john floth
john floth replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
Hi guys

Thaks a lot for taking the time to write me those helpful Responses.
I think im going to try and get a couple of days in Koh yai in Novemeber to see what i can find .
In the meantime ive found another snake hanging out on the steps of my building. It was almost black and had some stripes and a red neck, i looked it up and i think ist a red necked keelback. Coolest looking snake ive ever seen in the wild for sure!

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01 Sep 2013 22:56 #1360 by onflipflops
onflipflops replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
A Red-necked Keelback is indeed a cool looking snake. The specimens I've seen were not really black though, but it could vary in different locations, or it might have been close to shedding...

As far as I know only one person died from it's venom, but reason enough to watch out a bit. They are rear-fanged so therefore not considered too dangerous, but when it gets the chance to chew a bit it could cause serious trouble.

And even though I presume it's just a minor spelling mistake, I just want to make sure you don't end up on an island called Koh Yai, which might be disappointing if you're expecting wildlife. The national park's name is Khao Yai ;).

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05 Sep 2013 11:59 #1373 by Painted Jezebel
Painted Jezebel replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
Sorry to intrude on someone else's thread, but it is relevent, I think.

It now appears that myself, and at least two friends, will be spending 3 days at Fang in the beginning of November, primarily to go to Doi Pha Hom Pok, which has a very high species record regarding our interests (butterflies).

Is the poaching/drug running in that area still dangerous? Are there other, safer, suitably forested areas in the nearby area? None of us have ever been in that area before.

Thanks, in advance.

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07 Sep 2013 00:03 #1377 by john floth
john floth replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
Ive now hiked up there (doi pha hom pok area) a bit but never see anything dangerous other than various snake species that only move just as your about to accidently step on them , from time to time. It is clear that in Tha ton and the surrounding hilltribe villages that there is a bit of a drug Problem but I havent heard of any violence while ive been here. It is however not unusual to see People sniffing stuff and Walking around drunk in the middle of the day, when you walk the the Lahu villages but as Long as you go about your own Business im sure nothing will happen. As for the border Ive never had any Problems there either, they might ask u questions but ist pretty hard to actually walk to the border itself. I would recommend you stay on the paths because its easier to get rescued from if something should happen. Theres loads of Butterflys around here thats for certain!.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Painted Jezebel

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07 Sep 2013 07:07 #1378 by Painted Jezebel
Painted Jezebel replied the topic: Wildlife in the north of Thailand
Thank you, John. My concerns have gone!

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