Thungyai Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
Highlights of Thungyai Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
Introduction to Thungyai Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary is about 300km (187 miles) north west of Bangkok and lies mainly in the Uthai Thani Province of Thailand. Together with the adjoining Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary to the west, these two separately governed sanctuaries make up a single outstanding conservation area which is the largest protected area in mainland south-east Asia. The Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary provides an area of largely undisturbed habitat for several threatened species amongst its 67 mammals, 355 species of birds and several rare species of reptiles and amphibians. Endangered animals include wild buffalo, rhinoceros, wild elephant, tapir, leopard and wild bulls.
The sanctuary is spread over hilly slopes and river valleys, producing a variety of terrain. The hilly areas are mainly covered with a variety of forests including evergreen, semi-evergreen, deciduous and bamboo forests. In the valley bottoms there are several large rivers surrounded by grassland. Within the site there are rings of stones, believed to mark the site of buried treasures, but so far none have been investigated by archaeologists.
The Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary has no hill tribe residents and is not open to the general public. Researchers, naturalists and educational bodies may apply for permits to visit, available from the Wildlife Conservation Division. Guard stations provide some security and protection against poachers.
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Guide to Thungyai Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary currently covers 257,464 hectares, along with a further 320,000 hectares within Thung Yai Naresuan Sanctuary. The nature sanctuary is spread over a hilly terrain from 250m to 1678m in height above sea level and it is bio-geographically unique. This is the main catchment area of the Huai Kha Khaeng River which flows through the area and gave the sanctuary its name. The fertile red-brown earth is derived from limestone and predominates in the upland areas and the Mae Chan Valley. One major feature of the sanctuary is the presence of natural mineral licks for the animals and most occur around the granite intrusions which may be associated with massive faults or lineaments in the area’s natural geology. As the area is limestone, sink holes are common. Smaller ones are about 20m wide but others stretch for 2km in length and are as much as 30m deep.
There are many small lakes, ponds and swamp areas, some of which dry up during the dry season, from November to April. The permanent water sources provide sufficient resources for the wildlife and fauna. The monsoon climate sees heavy rains during September and October each year and the annual rainfall is about 1700mm. The climate ranges from tropical to sub-tropical with temperatures ranging from 10C min. to 28C max. in December and 20C min. to 37C max. in May.
The fauna found within the Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary includes an unusual mix of species with Indo-Chinese, Indo-Burmese and Sino-Himalayan affinities. In total, the sanctuary supports a large proportion of Thailand’s animals including 67 species of mammal out of Thailand’s 265 total mammal species. Most importantly these include three of the National Reserved Wildlife Species of Thailand: the wild water buffalo Bubalus arnee, the mainland serow Capricornis sumatraensis and the hog deer Cervus porcinus. The Thailand brow-antlered deer Cervus eldi siamensis was last seen in the sanctuary in 1965. Other threatened animals include the Asiatic wild dog Cuon alpinus, tiger Panthera tigris, leopard Panthera pardus, clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa, Asian elephant Elephas maximus which are estimated to number just 150-200 animals, Asian tapir Tapirus indicus) and Fea’s muntjac Muntiacus fea.
Gaur and banteng are still fairly common, although they have become increasingly threatened by poaching elsewhere in Thailand. Two species of otter, macaques, the silver leaf monkey, Phayre’s leaf monkey and the white-handed gibbon also inhabit this area. The only herd of water buffalo in Thailand is found in the south area of the sanctuary.
Thailand has 900 species of birds, 355 of which are found in Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, although many are now considered rare. These include the green peafowl, Kalij pheasant, Burmese peacock-pheasant, rufous-necked hornbill and white-winged wooduck. Some of the last viable populations of riparian bird species can be found here including the lesser fishing eagle, red-headed vulture and crested kingfisher. Toads, frogs, reptiles and amphibians can also be found in the sanctuary along with 113 species of freshwater fish.
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History of Thungyai Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary was established on August 26, 1972. Together with the neighbouring Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991, making it the largest conservation area in south-east Asia. It currently covers 257,464 hectares, along with a further 320,000 hectares within the Thung Yai Naresuan Sanctuary. One of the main strengths of the area as a wildlife sanctuary is the fact that the vegetation has had little human disturbance, providing a unique area of undisturbed primeval forest. There has been little local agriculture or logging in the area in the past, leaving the area largely naturalized. No hill tribes have lived inside the sanctuary since 1976 when some Karen villages were relocated and in 1986 when one Hmong village was moved. Thai villages have now been established in the buffer zone around the sanctuary limits.
Rings of Stones mark what are believed to be sites of buried treasure and are particularly common near the Sap Far Pa Guard Station. So far none of these locations have been surveyed by archaeologists. They may be of future importance to palaeo-anthropologists.
Getting to Thungyai Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
The Sanctuary is not open to the public, and special permission is required to enter and explore.
The journey by car takes 6-7 hours from Bangkok. The road from Uthai Thani to Lansak is metalled, but from there a four-wheel drive vehicle is necessary. Take the Uthai Thani-Nong Chang road (Highway No. 333) past Amphoe Nong Chang to Highway No. 3438 (Nong Chang-Lan Sak) to Km. 53-54, then turn left onto a local road for about 14 kilometres.
There are bus services from Bangkok to Uthai Thani and Lansak, but no public service as far as the sanctuary, as it is not open to the public.
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