Thailand´s Wildlife and Plants

Thailand's Wildlife and Plants

The following is a very brief introduction to the diverse array of animals and plants that exist in Thailand´s national parks. We look forward to the opportunity to provide you with a far greater understanding of the many animals, birds, reptiles and insects that inhabit the forests of Thailand, by taking you on one of our unique jungle trekking adventures.

Flora

The flora of Thailand consists of a wealth of plants, many of which remain to be scientifically described. With more than 500 species of trees, 600 species of ferns, and 1,300 species of orchid, Thailand´s forests are of huge botanical significance. Although Thailand is within the tropics, the distinct wet and dry seasons affecting much of the country means that 65% of the forests are deciduous with trees shedding their leaves in the dry season. The remaining 35% of forest is evergreen, although in reality there is much mixing of deciduous and evergreen in many areas.

Fauna

Mammals

The forests of Thailand are home to an amazing range of mammals varying in size from the elephant to the world´s smallest mammal, the Kitti´s Hog-nosed Bat. In total 282 mammals have been identified in Thailand – 12% of the world´s mammal species. These include 92 species of bat, 70 rodents, 36 carnivores, 18 ungulates and 13 primates. However, the larger mammals have been heavily persecuted, and now they only survive in significant numbers in the larger protected areas such as the parks used by Wild Watch Thailand in the west of the country. The elephant, for example, had long been a symbol of Thailand, and was once depicted on the national flag. Sadly, however, their numbers are down to around 2,000-3,000 animals.

Nine wild cat species exist in Thailand, including the most dramatic of them all, the tiger. Like elephants, tiger numbers are much reduced, but the Western Forest Complex remains one of the country´s most important tiger habitats. Other species include the leopard, the beautiful clouded leopard, the golden cat and the leopard cat. Two species of bear exist in Thailand, the Asiatic black bear, and the world´s smallest bear, the Malaysian sun bear. Both species are omnivorous, surviving primarily on fruit and vegetable matter.

Ungulates (hoofed animals) of Thailand include the beautiful barking deer and the large sambar deer, wild boar, the massive gaur, the world´s largest wild cattle species, the banteng, a likely ancestor of domestic cattle, and the serow, a mountain goat that is at home on the steep limestone cliffs of western Thailand.

Three of the country´s primate species are gibbons, a family of apes that occurs only in Asia and possesses the most fantastic aerial skills in the forest canopy. Most other species are monkeys, and include five species of macaque and four species of the smaller leaf-monkey.

Birds

With more than 925 bird species (resident and visiting migratory species), Thailand is one of the world´s richest bird watching destinations. Among the most dramatic of these are the Hornbills, of which there are thirteen species in the country. Although far too numerous to mention, other species of note include birds of prey such as the crested honey-buzzard and the crested serpent eagle, frugivores such as the Asian-fairy bluebird and green pigeons, and nectavores such as the colourful sunbirds.

Reptiles & Amphibians

Thailand is home to a vast range of reptiles and amphibians. Although still persecuted by many, the country´s reptiles are an essential part of the food chain and play an important role in the control of pests such as rats and insects. Some 176 species of snake have been identified in Thailand, ranging in size from 20cm for the common blind snake to 10 metres for a fully-grown reticulated python. Three species of tortoise inhabit the country. The largest of these, the Asian giant tortoise may exceed 40kg and live for more than 100 years. Although much disliked by Thais, the monitor lizard is still fairly widespread. The largest, the giant water monitor, can exceed 2m in length and weigh more than 50kgs. Many other species of lizards are found in Thailand, including the amazing gliding Draco lizards which can sail significant distances from tree to tree.

Recommended reading:

“Wild Thailand” by Belinda Stewart-Cox (ISBN 1 85368 517 8)
“Thailand´s Vanishing Fauna & Flora” by Mark Graham & Philip Round (ISBN 974 89105 6 3)
“National Parks of Thailand” by Gray, Piprell & Graham (ISBN 974 071 612 1)
“A Guide to Birds of Thailand” by Boonsong Lekagul & Philip Round (ISBN 974 85673 6 2)

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