ANIMALS IN THAILAND: DINOSAURS, SEDATED TIGERS, RELOCATED PIGEONS AND SNAKES

ANIMALS IN THAILAND

Thailand relatively diverse climate and topography translates to a variety of flora and fauna, as well as a diverse natural environment. There are more than 1,000 different mammal species, 1,000 different bird species— both native and migratory—and spectacular marine life, including the whale shark, the largest fish in the world.

Each Thai National Park is inhabited by unique flora and fauna, from the northern mountain’s temperate forests and central Thailand’s expansive plains to the northeastern savannahs and the southern coast’s mangrove forests. The diversity of wildlife includes monkeys, gibbons, elephants, bears.

The fauna found in Thailand is divided into types with those in the northern part of country being of Indochinese origin like those in Myanmar, eastern India and southern China and those in the southern part of country being of Sundaic origin like those in Malaysia and Borneo, and Sumatra in Indonesia.

While encroachment on their habitat has reduced the numbers of exotic animals in Thailand, there are still a great variety of indigenous species. The most iconic of these is the Elephant, of which roughly 1,000 remain, mostly within the National Parks in Thailand. Among the larger mammals are the tiger, leopard, Malaysian sun bear, sambar deer, otter, and civet cat. Climbing animals include the gibbon and many species of monkeys. There are also sheep, goats, oxen, tapirs, wild cattle, wild hogs, and a wide variety of snakes, including cobra. Crocodiles, lizards, and turtles are numerous. Fish abound in the rivers and coastal waters.

There are a number of animal parks around Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket that allow visitors to get up close and personal with some of Thailand’s exotic animals, including Elephants, Tigers, and bird species. Zoos in Bangkok and Chiang Mai feature both animals from Thailand, and those from around the world, including Chinese Pandas!

In December 2005, Prime Minister Thaksin made a deal with the Kenyan government to send 175 African animals of various kinds, including giraffes, flamingos, buffalos, zebras. Lions and gazelles but no rhinos or other endangered animals, to the Chiang Mai Night Safari , Thaksin’s hometown in Thailand to establish an animal adventure park. Conservationists were worried the animals could end up in mouths of hungry Chinese or could spread African diseases to Asian animals in Southeast Asia Maasai tribesmen were outraged by the deal and threatened to take up weapons to keep the animals from being taken out of the country.

Thailand is particularly rich in bird life. More than 1,000 species of resident and migrating birds have been recorded in the country, a tenth of all the species in the world. Birdwatching tours are particularly popular in Sam Roi Yot National Park and Khao Sok, which is home to six species of hornbill. Thailand is home to 12 species of hornbill. The Thailand Hornbill Projects is group dedicated to studying and protected these wonderful birds.

See Separate Article on Elephants, Tigers and Other Animals Under Asian Animals

World Smallest Bat and Other Endangered Animals in Thailand

Endangered pileated gibbons have had their numbers reduced by poaching and loss of habitat resulting from farming. They survive in isolated areas of Thailand. Animals that have become extinct in Thailand include the kouprey (a type of wild cattle), Schomburgk’s deer and the Javan rhinoceros.

Thailand is the home of the tiny bumblebee bat, the world’s smallest bat and arguably the world's smallest mammal. Also known as the Khun Kitti bat and Kitti's hog-nosed bat, it occurs in western Thailand and southeast Burma, where it occupies limestone caves along rivers, including Pung Chang cave near Phuket. The bat is about 29 to 33 mm (1.1 to 1.3 in) in length and 2 g (0.071 oz) in mass. The main competitors for the title are small shrews; in particular, the Etruscan shrew may be lighter at 1.2 to 2.7 g (0.042 to 0.095 oz) but is longer, measuring 36 to 53 mm (1.4 to 2.1 in) from its head to the base of the tail. [Source: Wikipedia]

Kitti's hog-nosed bat has a reddish-brown or grey coat, with a distinctive pig-like snout, with thin, vertical nostrils. Its ears are relatively large, while its eyes are small and mostly concealed by fur. Its teeth are typical of an insectivorous bat. Colonies range greatly in size, with an average of 100 individuals per cave. The bat feeds during short activity periods in the evening and dawn, foraging around nearby forest areas for insects. Females give birth annually to a single offspring. Although the bat's status in Burma is not well known, the Thai population is restricted to a single province and may be at risk for extinction. Its potential threats are primarily anthropogenic, and include habitat degradation and the disturbance of roosting sites.

Irrawaddy fresh water dolphins are found in the Mekong River in Laos and Cambodia, the Mahakam River in Kalimantan in Indonesia and the Yangtze in China. They were once found in the Chao Praya River, which flows through Bangkok, but haven’t been seen there in decades.

Dinosaurs in Thailand

Most of the dinosaur fossils found in Thailand have come from 10 or species of Brontosaurus-like sauropods. In 1994, the bones of the oldest Tyrannosaur yet found were discovered in Phu Wiang National park in Khon Ken province by a French-Thai team of scientists led to a site in gully by a thirsty dog. The dinosaur, called Siamotyrannnus isanensis, was 21 feet long and lived around 120 million years ago. The oldest previously known Tyrannosaur lived in Mongolia 90 million years ago. The discovery in Thailand supports the theory that tyrannosaurs first appeared in Asia and migrated to North America across a land bridge.

Phu Wiang National Park (70 kilometers from Khon Kaen in Northeast Thailand)is site of Thailand’s most important dinosaur discoveries. The first fossils—discovered in 1976 by a uranium survey team on the hill Pratu Ti Ma—were a long neck and tail of a 15-meter-long dinosaur. The plant-eating dinosaur was named Phuwiangosaurus Sirindhornae to honour H.R.H Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. At this site, the teeth of a meat-eating Tyranosaur have also been found. It was named Siamosaurus Suteethorni after the discoverer, Mr. Warawuth Suteethorn. At Site No. 8 are 68 footprints of dinosaurs, dating back 140 million years ago. Most of them belong to the world's smallest species of meat-eating dinosaur, which walked on two legs. Among such footprints, there is one bigger footprint, assumed to belong to Carnosaurus. These sites are 19 kilometers from the headquarters. It takes an hour to get there by car and a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended. In many sites, geologists found fossils of dinosaur babies, small crocodiles and mussels dating back to 150 million years ago.

Dinosaur fossils stolen in northeast Thailand have been carved into lucky Buddhist charms. The fossils have been dug up at night by laborers hired by amulet dealers. Thais believe that wearing Buddhist amulets around their necks ward off evil spirits. It is widely believed that the older the material used for amulet the greater its power.

Thailand's Tiger Temple

The Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi (about 80 kilometers west from Bangkok) is one of the few places in the world where visitors are allowed to pet and pose for pictures with the tigers. Fast becoming one of Thailand's most popular tourist attractions, the sanctuary was set up for for orphaned tigers by Buddhist monks in 1999 when the first female cub was brought to Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno, a Buddhist sanctuary, and was cared for by the monks. [Source: Kerry Mcqueeney, Daily Mail, April 24, 2012 *]

Kerry Mcqueeney wrote in the Daily Mail: “For a basic entrance fee - or 'donation' - of 1,000 baht (about £20), visitors get a tour of the site and the chance to enter the sanctuary's Tiger Canyon, a quarry with a rocky pool at one end containing a dozen or so sleeping tigers chained to the ground. During a small half-hour window, tourists have the option of being escorted around the quarry with two volunteers so they can pet each tiger while they sleep. One volunteer keeps an eye on the tiger while the other takes charge of tourist's camera and snaps away as they touch the big cats. For an extra fee, visitors can have their picture taken with the largest tiger's head resting in their lap. And for more money, they can have a front row seat - in a cage near the water front - to watch the cats playing in the pool. *

“Despite its status as a sanctuary, the Tiger Temple has been dogged by controversy as it has grown as a tourist attraction. Many online forums discussing the temple contain fierce debate of the ethical issues surrounding such a tourist attraction. The temple has been forced to strenuously deny accusations that its big cat residents are sedated to allow tourists to have their pictures taken with them. They say the reason the carnivores are so docile is because they have been hand-reared by the monks from an early age, which means their aggressive behaviour has been controlled and they do not see human contact as a threat. However, many remain suspicious over why the cats are so calm and sleepy during the visiting. *

“Visitors to the sanctuary are made to sign a disclaimer before they are allowed to enter - to ensure the temple does not get sued in case someone is attacked by a tiger - and signs at the gate explain why the tigers are so used to human contact. Tourists are also advised to steer clear of dressing in brightly-coloured clothes to avoid getting the tigers excited. Nevertheless, for the most part, tourists who visit the Tiger Temple come away from it with a unique experience - a chance to get up close with the majestic big cats. *

A review on Lonely Planet's website reads: 'Kanchanaburi’s most expensive tourist attraction is also its most controversial. 'This monastery affords incredible photo opportunities for visitors to get up close and personal with the big cats. 'Some of the temple’s 30 tigers pose for pictures in a canyon while visitors are shepherded in and out in quick succession.'

Elephants in Thailand

< See Separate Article

Thai Police Seize 14 Elephants with Fake IDs

In August 2013, Associated Press reported: “Thai police said they seized more than a dozen elephants in raids after busting a gang that allegedly provided the animals' owners with false identification papers. Fourteen unregistered or illegally registered elephants were taken in simultaneous raids on tourist destinations in the southern provinces of Phang Nga, Phuket and Krabi, said Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression chief Police Maj. Gen. Norasak Hemnithi. [Source: Associated Press, August 21, 2013]

He said the operation, carried out by nearly 100 police and wildlife officials, followed the discovery of identification certificates issued for elephants that were not residing in their registered locations. They were believed to be illegally held after being either smuggled from neighboring Myanmar or taken from the wild. Two other elephants were seized Tuesday in the eastern province of Trat, TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, said in a statement.

"Police believe that elephants were taken from the wild, either in Myanmar or elsewhere, smuggled into Thailand, where they were trained, transferred to the camps, and then registered at a later date using these falsely provided certificates," TRAFFIC said.

TRAFFIC said the case began after police found suspicious elephant identification certificates in camps in Phuket and Phang Nga. Further investigation uncovered 69 more fake certificates in the homes of two men in the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum. The two men are now being sought for arrest.

Thailand and Myanmar are both parties to international agreements prohibiting the cross border trade in elephants. Thai law also bans the capture of wild elephants. More unregistered elephants are expected to be seized from camps in four other provinces.

Thailand: a Major Center of the Ivory Trade

Thailand is the key stop on the supply line of the illegal ivory from Africa to China and has a thriving local market for ivory products. According to The Guardian: “Selling trinkets produced from ivory from Thailand's 2,500 remaining elephants is legal. There are 67 authorised ivory vendors, but market surveys have found ivory in more than 250 shops, where African ivory is passed off as Thai.” [Source: Damian Carrington, The Guardian, March 3, 2013]

Michael Casey of Associated Press wrote: “The Thai government has failed to crack down on one of the world's largest markets of illegal ivory, allowing vendors to openly sell products that come from African elephants, the conservation group TRAFFIC said. TRAFFIC, which monitors trade in wildlife, said that judging by recent seizures of ivory imports and exports and several surveys it has done since 2006, Thailand has surpassed traditional hotspots like Japan and China. [Source: Michael Casey, Associated Press, June 19, 2009 ***]

“Hundreds of venues from five-star hotels to street markets in the Thai capital of Bangkok—which has by far the biggest markets in the country—were found to be selling tens of thousands of items from pricey carvings of religious deities to cheaper bangles, belt buckles and knife handles. Much of the illegal ivory is smuggled from central African countries to workshops outside Bangkok, the British-based conservation group said. Merchants in the capital and to a lesser degree tourist cities like Chiang Mai sell the ivory products to locals as well as foreign tourists, benefiting from loopholes in current laws that make it hard to crack down on the trade. Some of the items are also exported to markets in Europe and the United States. ***

"Thailand has consistently been identified as one of the world's top five countries most heavily implicated in the illicit ivory trade, but shows little sign of addressing outstanding issues," said Tom Milliken, of TRAFFIC, which oversees a global monitoring program, Elephant Trade Information. "Thailand needs to reassess its policy for controlling its local ivory markets as currently it is not implementing international requirements to the ongoing detriment of both African and Asian Elephant populations," Milliken said. ***

TRAFFIC “recommended that Thailand boost its regulation of the domestic ivory market and amend a law that allows sales of domestic ivory. It also called on the government to streamline often conflicting legislation related to the trade and train Thai Customs officials in identifying illegal ivory. "The Thai Government needs to crack down on this serious illegal activity and stop allowing people to abuse the law," said Colman O'Criodain, the World Wide Fund For Nature's analyst on wildlife trade issues. "A good first step would be to put in place a comprehensive registration system for all ivory in trade and for live elephants." ***

“An official with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, acknowledged there was a "problem" with ivory sales in Bangkok but that it was hard to regulate since it can be difficult to differentiate between ivory that comes from domestic elephants and those from Africa. Some shops selling ivory items are registered with the government but he acknowledged many are not. The officials said the government was trying to address the problem partly through the passage of a new law called the Elephant Act, which would toughen regulations on the import and export of elephants and elephant products, including ivory. Thailand is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which banned trade in ivory in 1989 after a wholesale slaughter of African elephants by poachers in the 1970s and 1980s. Ivory traffickers face a fine of four times the goods' value and a maximum jail term of 10 years, but enforcement is lax. ***

Thailand's prime minister pledges to outlaw domestic ivory trade

In March 2013, Thailand's prime minister pledged to outlaw her nation's legal domestic ivory trade. Damian Carrington wrote in The Guardian, “Yingluck Shinawatra's announcement came on the opening day of the world's biggest wildlife summit in Bangkok—the two-week meeting of the 178 nations that form the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). [Source: Damian Carrington, The Guardian, March 3, 2013]

"Elephants are very important for Thai culture," said Shinawatra, who made the statement after she received a petition from 1.5 million people around the world. "Unfortunately, many have used Thailand as a transit country for the illegal international ivory trade. "We will work towards amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end to ivory trade. This will help protect all forms of elephants including Thailand's wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa."

"We're thrilled that Prime Minister Shinawatra has pledged to end ivory trade in her country. But she now needs to ensure that it takes place as a matter of urgency, because the slaughter of elephants continues," said Carlos Drews, the head of WWF's delegation to Cites. Philip Mansbridge, the CEO of Care for the Wild, was more cautious in his welcome. "We were disappointed by the lack of a clear commitment to banning the domestic trade. We don't feel it has gone far enough." He added: "Poaching isn't just a problem for Kenya, South Africa or wherever the animals are. It's a problem for the rest of the world because the scale of poaching means that it has become a national security issue." Thailand, along with Nigeria and Congo, may face trade sanctions if Cites member nations do not feel they are doing enough to tackle the illegal ivory trade.

Monkeys in Thailand

Macaque sell for about $50 a piece in Thailand.

A monkey training center in Ban Mae Ram in Chiang Mai Province teaches macaques how to pick fruit such as coconuts, mangos and tamarind. The training center was founded by a former military sergeant to address in labor costs among farm hands in Thailand. The monkeys are given names and taught in hour-long sessions. Monkeys are taught with positive reinforcement and rewards such bananas and hugs for a job well done.

The monkeys are taught first how to collect coconuts, something they have been doing for centuries in Malaysia. They are taught next to gather ripe tamarinds by shaking tree branches. When they master that they learn how to collect mangoes. The monkeys are allowed to eat as much fruit as they want as long as they keep collecting. The entire training program takes between six months and a year.

Lop Buri has a large population of pesky monkeys, most of which are a species of macaque called the long-tailed, or cynomolgus, monkey. Many are also rhesus monkey hybrids, which are the result of unions between local monkeys and pet monkeys that have been released after they became to big.

Long-tailed macaques that live atop of Wat Prang Sam Top in Lopburi descend from the temple at dawn to search for food and antics. They fan out in the roads, causing drivers to swerve and slam on their brakes to avoid hitting them. Some venture into shops and hotels and swing on power lines and have to be shooed away. Occasionally they steal purses and attack people passing by. On a stretch of sidewalk where cycle drivers hang out a meal of fruit and vegetables is left out by an elderly woman. The monkeys squeal and howl and fight for the choicest pieces when the food basket is left out for them.

Chinese Banquet for Monkeys in late November is delectable 10-course, Chinese-style vegetarian banquet enjoyed by 500 monkeys at Prang Sam Yoy and Phra Kan Shrines in Lop Buri Wat. Originally sponsored in 1989 by a rich hotel owner who believed that monkeys brought his family good luck, the event is staged at 10:00am, 12:00 noon and 2:00pm. Special gifts including mirrors and toys are presented to the monkeys. The food includes watermelons, pineapples, Thai fruits, corn on the cob and popular desserts and a giant cake. Monkeys are seen downing cans of Pepsi. The monkeys have lived in the Khmer temples of Lop Buri for generations, feasting off the daily offering of fruit left behind by Buddhist worshippers.

Crocodiles in Thailand

Siamese crocodiles are rare in the wild. However there are quite a lot of them raised in captivity. At the Sriracha Tiger Zoo alone about 20,000 are born each year during the zoo’s May-to-August hatchling festival.

Five freshwater crocodiles, thought to be extinct were recently discovered in Khao Aung Ru Nai Wildlife Sanctuary (3 hours east of Bangkok).

Samut Prakarn Crocodile Farm (in Samutprakarn, 30 kilometers outside Bangkok) was started in 1950 and is now home to 100,000 crocodiles, including the largest crocodile in captivity, a six- meters (19 feet, 8 inches) monster named Yai that weighs 1114.27 kilograms (2465 pounds). The brainchild of Thailand’s 'Crocodile King’ Utai Youngprapakorn, the farm has been recognized as the world’s largest centre for crocodiles. In 1995 many crocodiles escaped om a flood.

In addition to being a zoo and hosting shows the Crocodile Farm aims to help preserve crocodiles by breeding them in captivity and acting as an education and research centre for the conservation of wildlife. In ‘Crocodile Wrestling’ show keepers putting their heads into crocodile’s mouths and vacationing school children are taught how to handle the crocs. There are also ‘acrobatic elephant’ shows, elephant and camel rides, paddle boats on a lake and a visit a “Dinosaur Museum” to the “Monkey Playground.”

See Asian Animals, Places

Snakes and Lizards in Thailand

Poisonous snakes found in Thailand include: A) three species of krait: (1) the Malayan krait or blue krait; 2) banded krait; and 3) the red-headed krait); B) four species of cobra: (1) monocled cobra; 2) Indochinese spitting cobra; 3) Sumatran cobra or equatorial spitting cobra; plus the king cobra (which belongs to a different subfamily than cobras); C) four species of coral snakes including the blue coral snake and small-spotted coral snake; D) two species of sea kraits (the yellow-lipped sea krait and black-banded sea krait); E) 12 species of sea snakes; and F) about 20 species and subspecies of viper and pit viper including the Russelĺs viper, chain viper, Malayan pit viper, yellow-lipped pit viper, Cardamom Mountains green pit viper, Kanburi pit viper, mangrove pit viper, brown-spotted green pit viper, Pope's pit viper, Phuket pit viper, Siamese peninsula pit viper, Wirots palm viper, and Wagler's pit viper.

There are also dangerous non-poisonous snakes such as the Burmese and reticulated pythons, which can reach 15 meters in length. In April 2005, a tourist who parked outside the Krabi Royal Hotel in Krabi found the reason he couldn’t get his rented car to start was five-meter-long Python wrapped around the engine. Authorities needed more than an hour to extract the snake from the engine. The python was freed and released unharmed into a nearby forest.

Among the interesting lizard species the nik-kae ( a large gecko) and the blak jungle monitor lizard.

Boonreung “Snake an” Bachan was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for spending seven days in an enclosure with snakes in 1998 to set a world record, The record was later broken by some Chinese girls. In 2004, Boonreung died at the age of 34 after he was bitten on elbow by one of his pet snakes, a black mamba, while performing a show. After being bitten he took an herbal medicine and a shot of whiskey and continued with show until he collapsed. By the time was brought a hospital too much poison had spread throughout his body to save him.

Turtle Thought Extinct Found in Thailand

Michael Casey of Associated Press: “Thai villagers have caught a river terrapin turtle that was thought to be extinct in the country, a leading conservation group. The female turtle—known for its egg-shaped shell and upturned snout—was found Jan. 3 in a mangrove canal in Phang Nga province on the country's Andaman coast, said the World Wide Fund for Nature-Thailand. It was the first time the species was found in Thailand in two decades, the WWF said. [Source: Michael Casey, Associated Press, January 10, 2007 +]

"The discovery of a species that was believed to be extinct in Thailand is considered to be a very important event and it shows that the natural habitat, in which it was found is still rich and should be conserved," said WWF official Songpol Tippayawong. Villagers from Klong Tum were out fishing when they spotted the turtle—about 20 inches long and weighing 62 pounds—as it was on its way to nest, the WWF said. They sold it to another villager who then alerted local conservation authorities. +

“The turtle, which is designated as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union, has been turned over to a district fisheries office and it will raised in captivity, the WWF said. It will eventually be released back into the wild. "Normally, turtles caught like this would have been eaten by the local people," Songpol said. "The turtle was initially sold but the villager who bought it had a conservation mind-set. This turtle was pretty lucky." The turtles—which can be found in other parts of Asia along the Andaman Coast and the South China Sea—have seen their numbers reduced drastically in recent years, mostly due to poaching of their eggs, pollution and habitat loss. +

Relocating Bangkok’s Pigeons

Mark Magnier wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Bangkok's pigeons are little winged street toughs, nurtured on dust, dirt and noise. So, the local government, out of the goodness of its heart (or maybe after a look in its pocket), has decided they need a little "holiday" in the country.

We're sending them to the forest, officials said recently, to live a life of luxury, clean air and food aplenty. "It's friendlier in the forest," said Teerachon Manomaiphibul, deputy governor of Bangkok, and pigeon relocator in chief. "It's eco-friendly." For those who don't spend sleepless nights worrying about bird welfare, the city has also tapped self-interest: Giant billboards around the Sanam Luang grounds abutting the Grand Palace, where the removal effort is focused, show images of worms found in pigeon stomachs along with details of bird flu and health risks to children. [Source: Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2010 <>]

“The Bangkok government's plan envisioned shipping the feral pigeons off to scenic Ratchaburi province amid reassurances that it wasn't poisoning the urban pests, which it tried a decade ago. (The poisoning campaign wasn't only a P.R. disaster, it was ineffective. "The pigeons survived and the trees all died," one observer said.) Not in my backyard, Ratchaburi residents cried. Why should we take your feathered undesirables? They'll only damage our crops. <>

“Bangkok's Plan B involved sending the birds to another sylvan province until people there expressed similar reluctance to accept the capital's droppings, this time on water cleanliness grounds."Round one went to the pigeons," the Bangkok Post remarked in an editorial about the kerfuffle, which most recognize is motivated more by the city's efforts to redevelop Sanam Luang than bird welfare. <>

“Weighing in on the feathered controversy are Sanam Luang's many fortunetellers. Sitting on a tarp awaiting customers, Chun Sae-ow, 79, used his otherworldly powers to see the future. "I predict the birds will be back," he said. A few feet away, on a blanket strewn with tarot cards, talismans and related spiritual objects, 76-year-old fortuneteller Sunthi found at least one good result from the anti-pigeon initiative. "It's scared away the bird-feed mafia, at least for now," he said, requesting that his last name not be used to prevent their ire. <>

“But the bird crackdown and various "Don't Feed the Pigeons!" warnings have not scared off all the seed sellers. You have to be pretty scrappy to flog a few cents' worth of corn for up to $15 to unsuspecting tourists. As a tall foreigner wandered by, seed seller Tan, 57, who gave only one name, forced a bag of corn into the visitor's hand. When he handed it back, she threw it at him. "Stingy," the seed-selling veteran said after another foreigner refused her wares. <>

Efforts to Catch Bangkok’s Pigeons

Mark Magnier wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “On a recent afternoon, several police officers guarded an area the size of a football field enclosed by police tape. At its center stood a 40-foot-square frame covered with green netting with one side left open. Periodically, workers scattered food inside. Birds, long used to a beg-borrow-steal existence, flocked to the easy handout. [Source: Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2010]

“The government's plan has been to lure the birds into the enclosure at Sanam Luang for a few weeks, then drop the net after they're suitably lulled, and transport them to bird nirvana. The police officers lounging in the shade are on duty against saboteurs -- it seems bird-seed vendors have taken to tossing firecrackers at the flock hoping that the birds won't get lured into the trap. Some aren't waiting for the state to act. Jira Wat, 38, who sells household goods, eyed several birds in a tree just above his head, then pulled out a plastic pellet gun. "I'm a bad shot," he said. "But if you get them in the butt, they scoot off and stop pooping on you." <>

“The taxpayer-funded buffet has left the flock incredibly well-fed, fortuneteller Sunthi said, with birds barely able to move at day's end. That has prompted some people to grab plump birds and cook them up in a dish called red-pot pigeon, he said. "I have the recipe if you want," he said. "I've tried them fried, quite tasty really, although they have a lot of bones." <>

“Some of the details of the government plan are a bit vague, or continue morphing as opponents gather strength, but in principle the birds will be transported 3,000 at a time in racing-pigeon cages, said Neti Tuntimontri, president of the Assn. of Bird Competitors, who is helping out. Once caught, they will get two disinfecting bird baths to rid them of mites, worms, fungi and respiratory and digestive problems. "It's like a bubble bath for birds," he said. Initially, the pigeons were going to be released in the wild. But as rural residents worried about their breeding capabilities and other critics predicted they'd fly back to Bangkok, another proposal emerged: They'd be segregated in forest enclosures by sex, unable to reproduce, and fed rice husks until their natural death. <>

"I guarantee they'll live longer than in the city," said Manomaiphibul, the chief relocator, a self-avowed bird lover and pigeon racing enthusiast. "It's like a stray dog becoming a happy pet." Yet another proposal would see the birds go to farmers nationwide for their eggs, which might be sold to restaurants. Amid all the to and fro, Tuntimontri, who has raised birds for decades, scoffed at the idea that they would fly back to the capital. "They're too stupid," he said. "My racing pigeons might find their way back, but these guys. . . . If they had half a brain, they wouldn't fall for this food-net business." <>

Thailand’s ‘Scorpion Queen’ Sets Several Guinness World Records

In February 2009, Noel Adlai O. Velasco wrote: “Kanchana Ketkaew, 39, of Thailand has set a new Guinness World Record by spending 33 days inside a 12sqm glass enclosure in the company of 5,000 scorpions at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in Pattaya, Thailand. “I am proud and so overwhelmed to be able to acquire the victory of living with 5,000 scorpions for 33 days and 33 nights,” said Kanchana, who had to endure being stung 13 times by the deadly critters on her way to achieve her latest world record. [Source: Noel Adlai O. Velasco, Asia News Network, February 13, 2009 ><]

“In Dec 2008, she made it to the Guinness Book of World Records by being the first person in the world to hold a 7-inch live scorpion inside her mouth for two minutes and three seconds. "She deliberately kept everything a secret from her family so they would not be worried." She achieved these amazing feats only 11 years into her unusual career. ><

“She deliberately kept everything a secret from her family so they would not be worried. Her family only came to know about her real job when she news reached them that Nong Na had set a new world record for the ‘Longest Stay with 3,400 Scorpions for 32 Days & 32 Nights’ at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in Pattaya. That was in 2002. Her record was challenged by a Malaysian woman but it turned out that the Malaysian’s feat was not recognised by Guinness after certain requirements for validation were not met. ><

“Nong Na broke her own 2002 world record by one day through her latest feat which started at 2:42pm on 22 Dec 2008 and ended at 2:42pm on 24 Jan 2009. “This second achievement really means even more to me as it breaks my own world record set in 2002. To endure these past 33 days and nights has been very challenging mentally and emotionally for me,” she said. She thanked the tremendous support she got from visitors who came by to visit her and encourage her, which gave her confidence to complete her quest. “Each and everyday, I woke up with 5,000 live scorpions. It’s very difficult but I tried because I received a lot of support from Thais and foreign tourists in the past 33 days,” she said. But she cautioned the public against imitating her stunt as it could be fatal. ><

“Nong Na lived for 33 days inside the 4 x 34 metre glass room with 5,000 scorpions at Royal Garden Plaza. But in the middle of her stay inside the glass room, another 2,000 scorpions were added to compensate for any scorpion fatality. The room was furnished with bed, a toilet, television, refrigerator, electric fan, a cabinet and books. She vowed to return to the small glass room again if anyone tried to challenge her new records. “I am always ready to defend my records at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum, Pattaya.” ><

“For her latest feat, Nong Na received a round-trip ticket from Bangkok Airways, a cash prize of 100,000 baht (US$2,900) from Ripley’s Believe Or Not Museum and household appliances from Samsung. After emerging from her glass room, Nong Na was presented with a certificate from Guinness World Records for her December 2008 feat of holding a live scorpion in her mouth for the longest time. Her second Guinness record attempt is expected to be validated in 30 days after video footage, proofs of record and completion signed by the mayor of Pattaya City, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand and three others have been received by Guinness. ><

Career and Marriage of Thailand’s ‘Scorpion Queen’

Noel Adlai O.Velasco wrote: “At the age of 18, ‘Nong Na’ as Kanchana is fondly called left her home in Chumporn province in southern Thailand and headed to Samui to look for a job. With no college degree, it was difficult to get a job suited to a woman like her. While visiting the Samui Snake Farm in Surat Thani province, she became curious why there were only male performers in the snake farm’s show. She believed even a woman could carry out such performance. Her curiosity eventually landed her the job of being the farm’s first female performer. [Source: Noel Adlai O. Velasco, Asia News Network, February 13, 2009 ><]

“She found the performances challenging. But it took her only three days to prepare herself for her first live performance before a big crowd. Unknown to her parents, Nong Na was performing dangerous shows with live scorpions. During the first three months, she had to be hospitalised after being stung by the poisonous arachnids. She went through a lot of pain since her body was not immune to the scorpions’ poison. But through the years she slowly built immunity against the venom and eventually her body grew stronger with time. ><

“Later the Scorpion Queen married Centepede King. Velasco wrote: Thailand’s ‘Scorpion Queen’ Kanchana Ketkaew met her match in ‘Centepede King’ Boonthavee Seangwong. Both have a soft spot for creepy crawlers. Kanchana and Boonthavee met while performing their respective stunts at the Samui Snake Farm. Prior to their wedding in 2006, both were already record holders. ><

“Kanchana, who was then 36, had set a world record in 2002 for spending 32 days in a glass cage with 3,400 scorpions while Bonthavee had a Thai record for enduring 29 days with 1,000 centipedes. Their wedding held on Valentine’s Day dubbed ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ took place in an odd setting—a haunted house in Pattaya. Indeed the venue was befitting for a couple with very unusual talents. Instead of the usual wedding attire, both were wed wearing bloodstained wedding clothes in a traditional Thai ceremony in which elders bless the couple with holy water. Following the wedding ceremony, the couple did away with the Thai tradition of heading to a ‘wedding room’ after exchanging vows. The pair instead climbed into a coffin where they consummated their marriage vows. ><

Plants and Forests in Thailand

Thai plants are both unique and diverse, with a variety of climates suitable for various species. The longest north-south distance in Thailand is about 1,900 kilometers. Because the entire country spans 16 latitudinal degrees there is a relatively large variation in climate, giving Thailand an astonishing variety of flora and fauna.

There are two main kinds of forests in Thailand: 1) monsoon forests that endure a dry season of three months or more: and 2) rain forests, where rain falls at least nine moths of the year. The former dominate the northern parts of the country while the latter are fund primarily in the south, with some areas hosting both types.

Natural forest covers nearly 25 percent of Thailand. Monsoon forests consist primarily of deciduous or hardwood trees, which shed their leaves during the dray season in order to conserve water. The rainforest zones are covered by evergreen trees. In the in the coastal lowlands, in addition to more predominately rainforest cover, mangroves and rattan abound.

The forest found in northern Thailand are similar to tropical forests on the mainland of Asia, bordered on the north by China and the west by India. This forest is clearly different, in terms of its dominant species, from those in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. (The latter are dominated by the family of trees known as Dipterocarpaceae). The forests of this area are not as diverse or have as high a degree of endemism as New World tropical rain forests. No specific estimate of species diversity values are available, but bio- diversity for seed plant species in peninsular India is perhaps comparable.

Thailand is famous for its variety of fruit and flower bearing trees and plants, the most iconic of which is the orchid, Thailand’s national flower. There are over 27,000 different varieties of flowering species in Thailand and more species of bamboo than any country with the exception of China. Over 1000 kinds of orchids are found in Thailand.

The rainforest zones are mostly covered with evergreen trees, although much of Thailand has considerable overlap and it is not uncommon to find bamboo, coconut palms, and banana trees throughout the country. Across the in the coastal lowlands, in addition to more predominately rainforest cover, mangroves and rattan abound. The most useful hardwood found in the monsoon forests is teak. [Source: Tourist Authority of Thailand]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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