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Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary
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Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary
Kanchanburi
Thailand
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Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary directions
Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area in Thailand. It is located in the northern part of Kanchanaburi province and southern part of Tak province. The wildlife sanctuary was created on April 24, 1974. It was later declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1991, together with another Thai wildlife sanctuary, Huai Kha Khaeng. King Naresuan of Ayutthaya twice made bases in this area (in 1590 and 1605) to prepare for an invasion of Burma. Later this site was called Thungyai Naresuan, which means great grassland of Naresuan. The area has been relatively uninhabited. The forested hills are unsuitable for farming and the area is still malaria-infested. This ironically prevented the environment from being changed much by humans and therefore kept it in its natural condition. Because of that, most of the wild animals typically found in forested areas in South East Asia have been seen in this area, including some rare ones such as tigers. The wildlife sanctuary's climatic zone belongs to the tropical zone or subtropics due to its height. The average temperature is between (in degrees Celsius) 15 - 35 in summer, 20 - 33 in the rainy season, and 10 - 29 in the dry season. It has annual rainfall of 2000ml. Thungyai is the heart of the western forest complex, which is comprised of 17 forest regions, situated in western Thailand along the Tranao Sri Mountain Range, near the Mayanmar border. It is called "western forest complex" because its boundaries extend through 5 provinces--Tak, Kampaengpet, Uthaitani, Supanburi and Kanchanaburi—and collectively protect 11.7 million Rais (approximately 4.4 million Acres) of forest. This is the largest and most important forest tract remaining in South East Asia with an intact ecology and a watershed that provides drinking water to thousands of Thai people.

In 1 square metre of Thungyai forest, there are more than 5,000 species of bacteria. In 1 square kilometre, there are more than 10,000 species of insects. Thungyai is also home to large proportion of Thailands wildlife species: 153 of 258 mammal species, 400 of 930 bird species, 188 of 500 fish species, 89 of 313 reptile species, and 41 of 106 amphibean species. The Thungyai Forest can be compared to the Amazon Rainforest of South America because it supplies oxygen to southeast Asia and moderates flooding during the rainy season. Sadly, only 20% of Thailand’s forest cover remains today, an astonishing figure compared to the 70% forest cover that still remained only four decades ago. If we do not recognize this tremendous loss and take immediate action, we risk not only losing Thailand’s wildlife heritage but also our own safety and that of our children. . Swidden (slash-and-burn) agriculture of hill-tribe people, irresponsible mining practices, and wildlife hunting threaten the ecology of the forest directly and indirectly. These problems are only accelerated by the construction of new roads, which threaten to fragment this fragile ecosystem, as has already happened in much of Thailand during the last 40 years of transportation network expansion. In early 1970’s, a group of concerned Thai citizens gathered to launch the Forest Conservation Bill. In the years that followed, a growing body of conservationists have continued this effort, raising awareness about the importance of natural resource protection and pointing out the deleterious effects of Thailand’s forest loss. The Western Forest Conservation Club grew out of this philosophy. They have promoted conservation ideas and practices with more than 100 projects in Huai Kha Khaeng and Thungyai Wildlife Sanctuaries since 1995, including the installation of solar energy systems at three research stations; construction of a radio tower network to facilitate communication between remote ranger stations; supplying GPS units, hand-held radios, uniforms and mosquito-net-equipped hammocks for field staff; constructing a check point ranger station along a major wildlife poaching route to stem the flow of bush meat trade; and initiating a rubbish removal and education program to minimize the introduction of garbage by visiting tourists. The accomplishment of these projects was achieved with minimal financial resources thanks to the tireless dedication and volunteer efforts of members and supporters. Despite many strides, the Western Forest Complex continues to suffer degradation due to wildlife poaching, the encroachment of domestic animals, and illegal resource extraction. Many important, long-planned projects remain and will require additional funds and supplies.

PHYSICAL FEATURES
The topography is generally mountainous with a network of many permanent rivers and streams dividing the area into valleys and lowland plains. The sanctuary's distinguishing feature is a large central grassland plain, from which it takes the name of Thung Yai (meaning 'big field'). Within the catchment area are four important rivers: the Mae Khlong, which flows into the Kwai Yai (of "Bridge over the River Kwai" notoriety) and feeds into the Sri Nakarind Dam; Kwae Noi, which feeds into Khao Laem Reservoir; and Mae Kasart and Mae Suriat which, respectively, flow into Mekathat and Huang Tharaw rivers in Myanma. Red-brown earths and red-yellow podzols are the predominant soils, the former derived from limestone and found in the level uplands and Mae Chan Valley, whilst the latter is found in the Huai Kha Khaeng Valley. A physical feature that is important for wildlife is the presence of mineral licks. These occur throughout the sanctuary as either wet or dry, and most appear to be located on, or around, granite intrusions in areas with red-yellow podzolic soil and may be associated with the massive faults or lineaments in the intensely folded geomorphology of this area. Small lakes, ponds and swampy areas occur, some being seasonal whilst others are perennial; these are important wildlife habitats. Limestone sink holes are found; most are only about 20m in diameter and 10-12m in diameter, but some are more than 2km long, 250m wide and drop as much as 30m depth).


VEGETATION
The principal vegetation types, and their estimated cover is as follows: hill evergreen forest (54,900ha); dry evergreen forest (112,900); mixed deciduous forest (164,100ha); dry dipterocarp forest (3,600ha); savanna forest (9,900ha); grassland (3,900ha); and areas of swidden agriculture (15,400ha) (Anon., 1991). The highest ground is generally covered with hill evergreen forest, also known as tropical lower mountain rain forest, but slopes above 600m generally support dry evergreen forest (seasonal evergreen forest). This latter formation is tall, dense, stratified and always dominated by Dipterocarps, and may appear to be evergreen in wet areas such as the central uplands of the sanctuary. In some areas, particularly broad valleys, there is often a mosaic of vegetation types.
At lower altitudes mixed deciduous and bamboo forests predominate, with dry deciduous dipterocarp forest occurring in areas with poor or shallow soil. Mixed deciduous forest is the most predominant formation, probably dominated by Lagerstroemia calyculata associations, although pure stands of Xylia xylocarpa are found. Dry dipterocarp forest, also referred to as dry deciduous dipterocarp, is unique to mainland South-east Asia. It is dominated by five xerophilous dipterocarps and is confined to the poorest and most porous soils where fire occurs. Savanna forest and grassland, both very similar formations, occur at every elevation, although the 'thung yai' covers 14,000ha. Some 17 trees occur in the savanna forests, of which L. macrocarpa, Stereospermum nueranthum, Terminalia chebula and Dalbergia cultrata are amongst the most common. Trees within grassland are smaller, of generally the same genera, but not exceeding 5m, and stunted either by fire or other edaphic constraints.
In particularly moist areas along rivers and streams, evergreen gallery forest is present. This is noticeably lusher than other formations, and harbours many more creepers, climbers and epiphytes, with emergents as high as 40m. The gallery forest sustains a higher than usuallevel of biological diversity in comparison to the more widespread but drier habitats, especially during dry season fires. The most important wetlands are those along the upper Khwae Yai and is tributaries, the Mae Klong and Mae Chan, both deep, fast flowing rivers with steep banks, muddy bottoms and frequent rapids and rocky ravines. Secondary forest on areas of former swidden agriculture are found in the Mae Chan Valley and central uplands towards the east. Swidden agriculture has been practised in areas of the most fertile soils which indicates that some of the richest forest has been destroyed but also that there is a good chance of regeneration. Characteristic species are those that grow in the surrounding forest, including L. macrocarpa, Vitex peduncularis, Bauhinia acuminata and Albizia odoratissima.


FAUNA
The fauna of both Thung Yai and Huai Kha Khaeng includes an unusual mix of species with primarily Sundaic, Indo-Chinese, Indo-Burmese and Sino-Himalayan affinities, many of whose ranges do not overlap. Most species are either characteristic of the Oriental/Indo-Malayan region or more specifically associated with the Indo-Chinese province of that region, but with a strong Sundaic element included. A small proportion is Palaearctic. Thung Yai has not been comprehensively surveyed, but it is known to support a significant proportion of Thailand's fauna (Nakasathien et al., 1987). It is big enough to support several of the larger and increasingly rare mammal species, such as tiger Panthera tigris (E), leopard P. pardus, clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa (V), Elephas maximus (E), tapir Tapirus indicus (E), Sumatran rhinoceros Didermocerus sumatraensis (E), gaur Bos gaurus (V), mainland serow Capricornis sumatraensis (I) and hog deer Cervus porcinus. A herd of 50 gaur was seen in 1985, making it the largest herd recorded in Thailand (P.D. Round, pers. comm.). Neither banteng B. javanicus (V), nor wild water buffalo Bubalus arnee (E) has yet been reported from Thung Yai, although both occur in neighbouring Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. The Javan rhinoceros Rhinoceros sondaicus (E) is said to have existed in the area and a track was photographed in 1988.

Notable bird species include white-winged wood duck Cairina scutulata, Kalij pheasant Lophura leucomelana, Burmese peafowl Polyplectron bicalaratum and green peafowl Pavo muticus (V).

A detailed summary discussion of the fauna of the combined Thung Yai-Huai Kha Khaeng sanctuaries is given in ONEB (1.990) and species lists have been compiled. This includes some 120 mammals, 400 birds, 96 reptiles, 43 amphibians and 113 freshwater fish as confirmed occurrences, with a number of species suspected as being present but not confirmed. Thirty-four internationally threatened species are also found within the confines of the two sanctuaries.

CULTURAL HERITAGE
It is certain that Thung Yai contains several sites of great archaeological interest, possibly dating back to the Pleistocene era when early hominids are thought to have migrated east and southwards through the area. Stone artifacts have been found which reinforce this supposition, but the area has yet to be properly investigated.

CONSERVATION VALUE
Watershed protection in both Thung Yai and Huai Kha Khaeng is conservatively estimated to be worth some US$ 13.8 million annually (Dobias et al., 1988). Both Thung Yai and Huai Kha Khaeng are considered key sites for the conservation of lowland and montane bird species (Round, 1988) and Thung Yai contains the largest and least disturbed expanse of riverine forest in Thailand (Round, 1985). The justification for the inscription of the Thung Yai-Huai Kha Khaeng sanctuary complex on the World Heritage List (ONEB, 1990), argues that the site is biogeographically unique, capable of sustaining flora and fauna indefinitely, of exceptional natural beauty and scientific value, and includes very high biological diversity. Being located in a transition zone between the tropics and sub-tropics and, perhaps, because it was a Pleistocene refugium, a number of species of birds and mammals are found to be sympatric here. Few other areas of dry tropical forest in the region are as large, as well protected or as pristine. The complex also contains outstanding examples of the rock formations which distinguish the western edge of mainland South-East Asia from the more stable continental core, and is probably one of the best modern examples of the impact of the Pleistocene epoch on the distribution and dispersal of South-East Asian fauna. The impact of geological activity on an area of pristine dry tropical forest is exemplified better than elsewhere.

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND FACILITIES Very little scientific research has been undertaken and there are no facilities.

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Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary

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