Mammals on Parade in Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok never ceases to amaze us. In our previous newsletter, we featured a story about the two very rare Malayan Tapirs we had the privilege of viewing. We've spent a lot of time recently in Khao Sok and as usual, it paid off with other uncommon sightings.
Stump-tail Macaques are infrequently spotted in the park. We had the pleasure of two separate encounters, each special in its own fashion. The first was in a region of the reservoir which we had only just started visiting. While paddling along one of the many massive limestone karst cliffs, we noticed something rustling in the thick vegetation. Binoculars came out and started focusing. An unusually colored monkey was spotted. Its body hair was sort of orange tinted. The thing that really stood out was its two large red skin patches surrounding its eyes. The monkey starred back at us too. Then, it let out a bizarre scream. We all looked at each other in amazement as the hairy orange primate climbed slowly up the cliff, stopping occasionally to yell at us.
The crack of dawn is a very special time to be on the water. From our floating bungalow camp, the sun crept gently over the jagged limestone cliffs. Across the wide expanse of the placid reservoir, the light spreads and the sounds of the jungle commence. White-hand Gibbons howl and shriek from the tallest trees. A lone Helmeted Hornbill initiates its comical call.
One morning, we came across a pair of Yellow-throated Martens. There was a slight coloration difference between the pair, indicating that one was male and the other female. Their attention was fully occupied with something inside a long section of bamboo resting on the shoreline. These nimble creatures ran back and forth, up and down, swing between the right side up and upside down… and with the absolute greatest of ease. They pulled and bit at the bamboo. They seemed quite unconcerned about our presence. It was quite a show and something that none of us had seen before.
On another morning excursion, we were enthralled with a family of White-Handed Gibbons dangling from the upper canopy. One had a very young baby clinging to her chest. Even though gibbons are an endangered species, we saw some each day. They are actually fairly common in Khao Sok National Park.
Paddling a bit further on, we saw a troop of Stump-tailed Macaques on the far shore. When we first spotted them, the majority of them were scampering up the shore. Their rear ends were so wide that we thought we were looking at wild pigs. Soon, they started making their unusual calls. One big male stayed in view in what appeared to be direct defiance to our approach. His eyebrows raised and his ears went back. This is their sign to keep your distance. We obeyed.
Speaking of wild pigs, we also saw a pair of them a couple days earlier. Wild pigs are abundant in the park, though not often seen. The water in the reservoir is very low this year as we're having a bit of a drought. This makes wildlife viewing a bit easier as the herbivores come out to chew on the thick grass that blankets the shoreline.
One afternoon, while paddling in a new cove, Zae and one of our guests paddled ahead of me. I was busy looking for our feathery friends as usual. I rounded a rocky point and saw Zae motioning almost frantically to me. I soon realized why. There was a huge male Serow standing proudly on a rock crag. Our guest had his camera and Zae had pleaded with him to get it out, but he was afraid that his motion would scare the Serow away. If I had had a camera, it would have been one of those once-in-a-lifetime shots… a two-person kayak in the foreground with a rare Serow just beyond and above them. That's it; it's time to go into debt again. I must have a camera and it might as well be a nice digital model.
A few minutes later, in a patch of elephant ear plants, we spotted a large Barking Deer. Her colors were bright and sharp in the midday sun. She slowly moved away, glancing over her shoulder from time to time, making sure we were friendly.
So, our mammal list for Khao Sok on these recent series of trips include a pair of Yellow-throated Martens, Stump-tail Macaques, a Serow, a Barking Deer, White-hand Gibbons, Wild Pigs, Dusky Langurs, Long-tail Macaques, and Pig-tail Macaques. We can't wait to get back.
Eco awareness news
Do you like the smell of sandalwood? As sandalwood is becoming more and more scarce due to its popularity, sandalwood poachers are starting to encroach on national parks. Khao Yai National Park in northern Thailand is a popular target as its vastness makes it difficult for park officials to patrol effectively.
As with almost all poaching problems, be they plant or animal, the root cause is demand. Without the demand, there is no need for a supply. It's basic economics. If you are concerned about your impact on the ever-decreasing natural resources, please do a bit of research before buying.
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