184th Meeting – April 1999

 
Wildlife in the Kingdom of Thailand

A talk and presentation by Bruce Kekule

 

Your convenor writes: There were no minutes taken at the meeting so I have used information from Bruce’s website which, apart from a sprinkling of anecdotes, covers all of what he talked about. I can’t reproduce the slides, unfortunately, you had to be there. To see some of the images on his website, Google Bruce Kekule. 

 

Bruce has photographed Thailand’s wild creatures and habitats for 15 years. He has traveled all over the country on a photographic odyssey portraying the natural world. Bruce’s passion for the Kingdom and its wildlife, and his mission to show the world this beauty, will surely create awareness amongst the present generation that action is needed now to save Thailand’s wild places and animals for the future.

Wildlife in the Kingdom of Thailand, Bruce’s first publication, offers a photographic portfolio of the wildlife in Thailand, a journey into the realm of the natural world with camera and film to record a small part of what was once a great wilderness.

In order to collect as many images as possible in the four-year period this book allowed, some of the best national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and non-hunting areas were chosen as photographic sites. By learning about each area from continued visits, a considerable knowledge was gained of wildlife habits and habitats. This determined the best times and places for 100 percent photographic success. Wildlife is so wary of humans that it is extremely difficult to see or photograph them in their natural habitat.

Thailand’s flora and fauna are some of the world’s most beautiful. We all need to join together to save what little is left, not only for ourselves but for our children.

As one millennium passes and another begins, the world has lost much of its rainforests and inhabitants in the destructive movement of progress. Human population growth, industrialization and man’s quest for money and power are the main culprits.

Recent surveys tell us that an area of tropical rainforest the size of New York’s Central Park is being destroyed every ten minutes, the size of New Orleans every Month and that of the British Isles every year. Forests are being cut down for timber, livestock ranches, farms, food and housing. Wherever the devastation takes place, it contributes to climatic changes through greater greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. In recent times, severe world weather conditions caused by the el Niño and la Niña phenomena, destructive typhoons and hurricanes, and their disastrous effects of drought and floods, have wreaked havoc globally.

It is common knowledge that the human being, the ultimate predator, bears the prime responsibility for this depletion. Unhappily, Thailand is no exception. These “Terminators” are destroying the fringes and interiors of our forests and, sadly, our national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and non-hunting areas. Resorts and golf courses, reforestation scandals, illegal hunting, encroachment, logging and mining are all taking their bitter toll. The future looks bleaker by the day and the trend is accelerating towards the point of no return!

We are thus faced with an intractable dilemma. The destruction of our flora and fauna by this and previous generations will have severe consequences in the new millennium, affecting the weather, land and lives of people all over the country.

At the end of the Second World War, Thailand’s forests covered an estimated 75 percent of the country. Now, perhaps only 20 percent of the forest cover remains, of which half to three-quarters is in protected areas. Many species of plant and animal life have already become extinct to be seen now only in text books, drawings and old photographs.

We are at a crossroads where education and a sense of awareness for all natural living things are the most important tools to save what is left of our forests and wildlife. We also need to communicate through photographic books like this one, and the news media, to those who are uneducated about wildlife so they may understand and see the beauty of the natural world.

Enjoy this photographic trip into the world of Thailand. Put yourself into each photo as if you were actually there and see the magnificent wildlife that still survives in the kingdom. This book makes a powerful statement: the photographs speak for themselves.

About Bruce

Born in the United States, Bruce has lived in Thailand since 1964. He is married to a Thai national and they live in Bangkok with their daughter, son-in-law and two grand daughters. His main objective is to educate the Thai people about their natural heritage before it is too late. A second objective is to help the park rangers who patrol the forests with food, clothing and equipment to create incentive among these men who put their lives on the line for the Kingdom’s forest and wildlife. His dream to produce wildlife photographic books continues.

Photographing Thailand’s magnificent wild fauna

Bruce writes: Thailand’s wildlife has evolved over millions of years into some of the most beautiful and interesting creatures in the world. Photographing these rare animals such as the Siamese crocodile, tiger, leopard, gaur, banteng, wild water buffalo, elephant and tapir, plus a multitude of other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects in their natural habitats is a daunting task due to many different aspects. Probably the most prominent is the ever-increasing human population and social ills like poaching, gathering and encroachment in the protected areas. This alone has taken its toll and the country’s natural habitats, from under the sea to the highest mountains, are in serious jeopardy with very little chance of recovery to the magnificent ecosystems of the past. Before World War Two, 75 percent of the kingdom was still covered in pristine forests. Barely 30 percent survives today and most of these are degraded to the point of no return. Hence, wildlife has become scarce and extremely elusive, and difficult to photograph.

However, a few protected areas remain fairly intact with good densities of flora and fauna. Prey species are abundant and carnivores thrive. These havens for wildlife include time honored Huai Kha Khaeng and Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuaries (World Heritage Site), and Kaeng Krachan and Doi Inthanon national parks. Other protected areas like Khao Yai, Khao Sok, Sai Yok, Erawan, Thap Lan national parks and Phu Khieo, Khao Ang Rue Nai, Khao Soi Dow and Salak Phra wildlife sanctuaries still have wildlife but some have very low densities depleted over the years by poaching and encroachment before any form of protection was implemented. Human pressure and the Asian traditional medicine trade are directly responsible for the disappearing wild species.

Wildlife photography is a difficult hobby or profession to become proficient. Years of trial and error, lost shots, bad exposure, out of focus, no wildlife subjects, equipment failure, expense and many other intricate problems make things difficult for the wildlife photographer. Travel plans and permission to enter some of the sensitive protected areas is a hurdle that must be crossed before any photographs can be taken. Cameras and lenses in the professional range are expensive but amateur equipment can also provide satisfactory results. Modern technology like infrared camera-traps allows one to capture illusive and rare animals, plus new digital cameras show results in real time. The use of a photo-blind is important as is self-control and patience, which comes with practice and a desire to get a photograph of nature’s creatures. Wildlife encounters are usually brief and one must always be ready with camera in hand ready to shoot on a moments’ notice. No two days are alike in the natural world and opportunities must be taken then and there if one is to be a successful wildlife photographer. Finally, share your photographs with as many people as possible in order to send a message to all that nature is truly worth saving for the future.