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Black Leopard sighting in Huai Kha Kaeng

02 Jan 2014 17:46 - 02 Jan 2014 17:58 #1585 by Jos-
Hey Guys! I just did my first visit to HKK and stayed in a tent for couple of nights. Due to the holidays the camping ground was unfortunately crowded but the place is just amazing.

It seems that the Pong Chang Puak nature trail is closed or at least they did not give me permission to visit the first tower. Most of the rangers I talked with said that new year is the worst time to visit the sanctuary since the crowd disturb all the animals away from the headquarter area. One of the rangers said that the best way to see animals is to drive the main road just after the sunrise. This is what we did couple of times and the sightings were incredible! We saw 5 green peafowls, a wild boar and a black LEOPARD just 200m from the HQ! The leopard was just laying on branch about 60m from the main road. This fellow stared at us for couple of minutes and then disappeared into the forest. Never seen a big cat before in Thailand and for me this is a dream come true! Could not have wished for a better start for year 2014!

During the second night we also heard some unbelievable roaring from the near forest. I checked some soundclips you guys have posted and i'm quite sure it was a tiger! It seems couple of wild dogs and a wild boar are used to the staff since they came really close to the camping ground during the night. They were probably looking for some waste from the kitchen area of the camping ground.


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02 Jan 2014 18:06 - 03 Jan 2014 08:50 #1586 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Black Leopard sighting in Huai Kha Kaeng
Jos, a sighting like this without a doubt deserves its own special thread, never mind a photo and a great photo as well!!

So I have just moved it to its own thread.

Absolutely incredible! Congratulations! You must be so psyched! I would be ecstatic. I think we have our next photo of the month winner and front page post. Magnificent. Ecstatic for you.

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02 Jan 2014 22:04 #1587 by Bagheera
Replied by Bagheera on topic Black Leopard sighting in Huai Kha Kaeng
SPEECHLESS!!

This is absolutely mind-blowingly magnificient, extremely well done to yourself for having the composure to photograph this stunning Leopard, I would have been a shaking nervous wreck and most probably suffered cardiac arrest right there in the truck..

Your photo captures the beauty, the mystery, the grace, the solitude of this amazing animal, I am in awe and a hearty congratulations are in order. As a young lad I had a photograph of a Black Leopard on my bedroom wall and this photograph brings back instant memories, Thankyou!

Very very happy for you, I'm sure you will remember this sighting for the rest of your life!

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02 Jan 2014 23:52 #1588 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Black Leopard sighting in Huai Kha Kaeng
Woooow!
I believe I have photographed a Long-tailed Macaque on that exact same tree. Or maybe it was another very similar tree...
My jealousy says this is just that same long-tailed macaque wearing a black cat-suit ;).

Woooow!
And not just a 1 second fleeting sighting without photographic evidence... Great image that indeed captures the elusiveness of one of the most beautiful big cats that walks this earth.

Absolutely incredible!
And the fact that you see this on probably the busiest day of the year in such a park...
Congratulations!
Honestly, I'm far from jealous; it makes me so excited that people are having this luck, and it makes me want to go there right now...

I haven't seen 'resident' Wild Dogs, but indeed boars seem to be common around the camping area.
BTW do you mean Asian Wild Dogs, or the Golden Jackals? If it is the first one, I expect they might have had a kill nearby and therefore stayed a couple of days.

May I ask you to roughly estimate the number of visitors during your stay? And how about the trails? Did the people go out to walk? A ranger told me they might offer join-in group walks accompanied by a ranger during these holidays. Did you see that or did the people just stick to their camps and leave most of the area alone?

Happy new year to you, and hopefull you will be just a s blessed the rest of the year!

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03 Jan 2014 12:09 - 03 Jan 2014 12:22 #1591 by Jos-
Replied by Jos- on topic Black Leopard sighting in Huai Kha Kaeng
Thank you all for your kind comments! It was definitely a breathtaking moment. To be honest my hands were shaking so badly I had to use really high ISO to get the frame :P Unfortunately i had to do some cropping because I only had my nikkor 300/4 with me.

The dogs were Golden Jackals. They were in the bushes just behind the toilets / kitchen area of the camping ground. Not sure if they had a kill near by but it seemed to me as they were looking for some leftovers. Not sure though!

I would say during the first night there were around 100 visitors and less during the second night. Lots of day visitors as well. One of the rangers told me to avoid the trails because they did some group walks and the chances to spot animals were slim. On the first morning I did the Home of the Tiger trail just after the sunrise. Spotted some deers from the tower, but did not see anything special. I did parts of another trail - starting from the headquarters - in the morning as well and saw some long-tailed macaques and two white-handed gibbons. Had a quick chat with a thai guy who did the whole trail and he said he had seen an elephant.

The crazy thing is that they did some fireworks on the night before the leopard sighting! I thought this would be highly forbidden in wildlife sanctuaries. Still 8 hours later the leopard was there, just 200m from the camping ground.

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03 Jan 2014 13:07 #1592 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Black Leopard sighting in Huai Kha Kaeng
Fireworks, haha, and in the meanwhile strict regulations not allowing a naturalist quietly taking a seat safely in an observation tower without disturbing any wildlife. The world upside down...
It brings me to another point. I doubt the neccessity of playing the national anthem in the national parks as loud as they do in Khao Yai. Not sure if they do it in other parks. Well, there are more things the park chiefs do that go against their own rules. No music in the parks, but in Khao Yai they don't mind to set up loudspeakers and turn the volume to the max, and play music. Nothing eductional about it, and even if it was eductional information, a reduced volume would be enough for the people to hear it. But well I should not change this thread about such an amazing sighting into a park-chief-bashing thread ;) My apologies.

Thanks for answerring my questions.
Even though a 100 campers is about 99 too many if you plan a quiet visit, haha, it's still reasonable.
I'm not too surprised that the fireworks did not chase off the wildlife. For sure the moment it happens they will be scared, but in such a reserve animals are used to dangers, especially the prey animals, and they simply can't afford it to hide the rest of the day. They need to eat. And will likely smell tiger or leopard spray on a daily basis, hear them roaring, etc. And when the prey doesn't move the Leopard will be out there to find it.

The dogs being Golden Jackals makes sense since they are scavengers. I don't think Jackals will make a large kill, but would love some leftovers from the rangers/ visitors.

And about your pic. Better a clear high ISO shot, than a blurry one at lower ISO.

I imagine it must have been such an unreal feeling. You wake up in the morning get ready to set off, and honestly I never expect to see much when I just get on the road, especially when you are so close to people. But then just 200m past the gate on the road you spot this black creature on a tree...
Is it still the alcohol from New Years Eve playing with my brain?... no wait it is real!
Thanks again for sharing!

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04 Jan 2014 08:37 - 04 Jan 2014 08:39 #1594 by jonathanbkk
Replied by jonathanbkk on topic Black Leopard sighting in Huai Kha Kaeng
WOW that is just an amazing shot Jos great work keeping steady!

To be able to see such an animal such as a black leopard has to be a highlight in life

I believe we spoke while at the restaurant near Headquarters? If so good thing you stayed in the park!

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04 Jan 2014 10:24 - 04 Jan 2014 10:26 #1596 by Jos-
Replied by Jos- on topic Black Leopard sighting in Huai Kha Kaeng
Hey Jonathan! Yes we met :)

Seeing a wild leopard - definately highlight of my life. Got so lucky even though the area was somewhat crowded. Still cant believe it really happened!

I continued my trip to khao yai on the next day. The place was a total disaster with terrible trafficjams. Could not believe my eyes after visiting the park last time in Nov. Had some really good sightings back then with civets, porcupines and elephants all around the place. Now just monkeys everywhere and saw one dead on the roadside. The officials even had loudspeakers in the camping ground! They should really restrict the park during holidays. Dont want to see anything like this happen to HKK so im glad the have strict policies.

Got a flu on the last night in Khao Yai so I didnt have time to check the trail you suggested Jonathan. Looking forward to it next time anyways!

And yes - totally agree with you onflipflops!

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04 Jan 2014 12:26 #1597 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Black Leopard sighting in Huai Kha Kaeng
Indeed terrible timing to visit Khao Yai, and good chance to catch a cold, haha. I'm thinking of going there anyway tomorrow, just a daytrip. Exploring a 'new' trail. Still not sure which area I will try, still have quite a few on my ever growing to-explore-list. But in all cases for sure I won't see other people there. Well, poachers perhaps, haha.

BTW I don't think these crowds will ever move to HKK. No waterfalls, and the scenery is not too special; don't get me wrong I love it, but I think the general Thai public won't be interested.
Lets hope the DNP won't decide to pave any more roads in other national parks. And hopefully other park chiefs - unlike the one in Khao Yai - will not change 'their' park into a Lumpini city park kind of place. It's great the locals are enjoying nature, and I hope it will stay that way. It is what has saved Khao Yai from the planned highway they wanted to built through it. But no need to further degrade the park with all this development. The people are not staying away now, are they?

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25 Apr 2014 10:58 #1868 by Bagheera
Replied by Bagheera on topic Black Leopard sighting in Huai Kha Kaeng
I forgot to ask at the time whether you have any more photos from this sighting? even if they are just slighty different compositions or different positions the cat is in..
It is a black leopard after all and I for one would love the see all the photos you have from this encounter...

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