Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thailand: Excursions without Elephants

Kui Buri National Park in southwestern Thailand is supposed to be one of the best places in the country to see large mammals. 

It is home, among other things, to some 320 Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus), as the main park sign proudly proclaims.

Edwin Wiek, our host for our weekend break during the 2013 CITES meeting, wanted to show us wild elephants, not just the penned animals in his rescue centre.  On March 9, therefore, he piled us into vehicles and took us off to the park for what would normally, I gather, have been a sure-fire afternoon of wildlife viewing.

Unfortunately, the elephants (and most of the other large mammals in the park) had other ideas, and stayed resolutely out of sight despite our best efforts to find them.  It happens sometimes.

We certainly went to the right spot: an overlook where we stood, or sat patiently, waiting…

…while a signpost above us warned us not to make noise lest we disturb the (nonexistent) animals.

Sambar (Rusa unicolor)
We did come across one large(ish) animal: a doe Sambar (Rusa unicolor) enjoying a largish pond (Sambar are normally found near water, if not in it).

Sambar (Rusa unicolor)
Sambar (Rusa unicolor)
Sambar (Rusa unicolor)
She was a bit nervous about us, I think, and headed for the shore (but seemingly couldn't make up her mind about what to do once she got there).

Anyway, we finally gave up on the elephants and took a stroll through the park's dry forest instead.

Anderson's Grass Yellow (Eurema andersonii andersonii)
Here I found an Anderson's Grass Yellow (Eurema andersonii andersonii), a common butterfly, attractive enough but a bit smaller than the animals we had hoped to see.

The end of the day brought handsome views of silhouetted trees and gathering clouds…

…as we piled into our vehicles for the drive back to the WFFT rescue centre.
Elongated Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata)
Elongated Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata)
Once we got back, we were introduced to a new arrival at the centre: an Elongated Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata).  Though it ranges from the Hi,alayas to northern Malaysia, this, like so many other turtles in southeast Asia, is an endangered species.  It is far more likely to turn up in a food market than in nature.

Elongated Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata)
This animal's best identifying marks are the black blotches at the centre of the scutes on its carapace (though not all Elongate Tortoises have them).

Asian Slow Loris (Nycticebus bengalensis)
That evening Ian Redmond and I went out for a night stroll - and Ian found me the animal of the day, right on the grounds of the rescue centre: an Asian Slow Loris (Nycticebus bengalensis), the first of its kind I have seen in the wild.

Asian Slow Loris (Nycticebus bengalensis)
Even though it was a wild animal, finding it on the grounds of a wildlife rescue centre seemed, somehow, appropriate.  Lorises, as a group, are another victim of their own cuteness.  A video of one being tickled has gone viral, and created a craze for these animals as pets.  They are, of course, entirely unsuitable for this purpose (as Lady Gaga found out when one bit her recently).  They belong in the wild - but an army of poachers, alas, has no intention of leaving them there.

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