Last weekend I explored some trails in Pangsida national park.
Unofficial trails... sorry for not following the park rules...
I parked the car and when I was just 10m in the trail a car stopped with a small team of armed rangers in the back. Guess they were going on a patrol, but not here. They had seen my car and probably did not trust it. I walked out of the forest and smiled.
They talked to eachother something about Farang making pictures, and one of them turned to me and said "Danger" and hand-signed a cross.
I smiled again, but kept quiet. They drove off, and despite the warning I went back into the forest.
Soon I found litter along the trail. And a little later a camp fire spot. I guess 1 or 2 days old.
The trail was definitely often walked, and I almost believed this was an official trail.
A clear trail branched of the main trail, but I decided to keep that for later and continued on the main trail.
I got at about 3km deep into the jungle, the trail still very clear and heading almost straight to the south, for sure in a few kms it would reach the park boundary. Just when I was about to turn around, just one last look where the trail was heading, and all of a sudden I hear people's voices coming in my direction.
Who are they? Tourists would be highly unlikely, patrolling rangers maybe, but honestly I feared for the worst poachers/ loggers.
For a second I thought about hiding behind the trees, but then I would have to follow them when I wanted to head back to my car...
I quickly turned around and at a fast pace headed back.
For sure they must have heard me walking on the crispy leaf litter.
If they had been patrolling rangers they would have likely followed me.
Getting closer to the car it seemed like nobody had followed me, so I anyway decided to take the side trail that I had seen on the way up.
I expected it would also bring me back to the road, which was not far away.
And there I stumbled upon the first logged Rosewood tree.
It reminded me of a news story of a ranger that got killed in Pangsida by illegal loggers.
Being at the spot did not make me feel very comfortable. A bottle of water that had not been there for that long showed this was still recently visited.
Not far from this first site I found another logged tree before I reached the road.
The next day I decided to explore another trail that I thought would connect to an official trail.
Hundred metres in the forest, again a logged rosewood tree.
I decided to continue. But at almost 1km deep I found an abandoned camp; the plastic roofs were still hanging there, but there were no recent signs.
I marked it on the GPS, but a bit in a hurry (not feeling very comfortable) I forgot to make a picture with my phone...
It made me anyway decide to turn around and forget about this area, and perhaps unofficial trails in general in this park.
The fact these logged trees can be found so close to the roads, and the rangers knowing these trails for sure, made me doubt if I had to report this.
Also I was not sure where to report my finds. I've marked everything on GPS. But I've experience with notifying rangers about these type of things. It generally means they will complain that I should not have visited these areas. Making me look like a bigger criminal than the people who really should not be there, haha.
If anyone of you knows who I should notify about this, then don't hesitate to sent me a private message.
I'm just afraid that the rangers know about it, but don't do anything. Most likely too scared to get themselves or perhaps even their families in trouble, because for sure all this logging is backed by influential people. This is Thailand...
Apart from this negative stuff, I also have positive news.
I encountered a Siamese Crocodile!
A beautiful specimen. Got some distant shots. But when it noticed me it ran into the water.
At exactly the same spot I saw a flash of a smaller (about 60cm) lizard-like creature that ran off on my side of the river into the water. The only thing I saw was some banding on the tail, but under the dark bamboo bush and the sudden speed of this animal I really can not tell what it was.
Sadly the other two contenders (Water Dragon and Water Monitor lizard) have banding on the tail as well, but I have the feeling this might have been a juvenile croc, which would be fabulous news. Heard another one on the opposite side under a bamboo bush.
I will return and hopefully some day confirm that the reintroduced population of this critically endangered crocodile species is reproducing !
Next year, hopefully only positive stories about wildlife.
Wish you all great wildlife encounters and above all a healthy and prosperous 2015!
I guess it is a never ending story.
It amazes me that they are using chainsaws so near to the road. Not afraid somebody will find out?
But indeed the finding of the Siamese Crocodile brought a smile back on my face.
And there was a big bull Gaur which seems to be a resident near the Huay Nam Yen camp area. I compared the images and turned out I photographed the same animal a year ago.
And a 3m+ Reticulated Python made its appearance.
So despite the bad news, it was a nice trip to end the year.
Did not get the Siamese Viper that I wished for at the beginning of the year, did not try hard either...
But got a new wild cat species this year with a leopard sighting.
Hope to get a fifth cat species in 2015
A vertically striped one would do....
This is most distressing that it is happening so close to the main dirt road and trails. Are the gangs this brazen or is there a more sinister reason? either way I hope the staff and chief down in Pangsida get the intelligence and manpower they need to take these criminals on.
Great shot of the Siamese croc, definitely good to have positive news to welcome in the new year!
I fear for the worst, Bagheera.
Not necessarily corruption (even though that should never be ruled out in Thailand...), but I would more likely guess it is fear/ threats of violence that might make the rangers look the other way.
Last year April I swear we heard chainsaws in the distance (no, I'm not confused with cicadas ) in the night when we were camping at Huay Nam Yen camp. I'm sure the rangers here that too, especially in the low season, and that's pretty much the whole year in Pangsida...
Another problem is likely that the number of rangers is too low in this park. At least it seems like it is just a hand full of rangers that are active in the actual park, apart from HQ and entrance gates.
I might have mentioned this before, but I think Thailand - and probably all countries in this region - needs an independent anti-poaching army with people from far outside of Thailand. And of course tough measures should be taken whenever anyone gets caught. And more importantly it should go all the way up to the influential people that are the ones that make the big money from all this trade. Long prison sentences and confiscating all their assets.
But I guess I'm just dreaming, for sure this won't happen in 2015, and I'm afraid it won't in many years to come