About 200 wild elephants live in the Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand’s largest and most biodiverse piece of continuous rainforest. With its conservation partner Wildlife Conservation Society WCS, Zoo Zurich is supporting the conservation of animals and their habitat. On the one hand, we get involved in the neighboring villages in order for people and elephants to live peacefully side by side. On the other, we support the fight against poaching and illegal logging in the national park.
The population of wild elephants in Thailand is estimated to be about 3000 animals. According to the Red List of Threatened Species, the Asian elephant is under serious threat throughout south and south east Asia. Several factors are putting pressure on the elephants. Destruction of rainforests, urban sprawl and increasing areas used for agriculture rob the animals of their natural habitats. As a result, the elephants wander through settled areas, leading to conflicts with the farmers. In addition, illegal hunting for ivory is threatening the remaining populations of elephants.
The elephants’ traditional migration routes often lead the animals through settled areas. The elephants cause great damage to plantations, houses or cattle in their path.
On the search for food and water, the elephants also penetrate through cultivated land.
We are trying to mitigate the conflicts which flare up between people and elephants by using separate spaces. Two kinds of fence are used for this. For one, we make it possible to have fixed, elephant-safe fences along the national park borders. These should drive the elephants to where they are surrounded by intact habitats with sufficient food and water.
The fixed elephant fence prevents the elephants from walking out of the national park.
The farmer constructs the second fence around his field with our support. The fence is an alarm system. It exposes elephants which cross the national highway overnight and wreak damage in the fields with pineapple, bananas, mangoes and other fine fruits. In order to intercept the intruders, the farmer sleeps in a guard hut by his field during harvest time. The alarm signal sounds as soon as the elephants stretch the wire surrounding the field. When the farmer is woken up, he then frightens the elephants away with firecrackers. Harvests and elephants remain intact.
Using our funds, farmers install a flashing and wailing alarm system by the field.
During harvest time, the farmer sleeps right alongside his ripe pineapples.
The Kaeng Krachan National Park enjoys full protection under Thai law. In spite of this, illegal logging, poaching and hunting for ivory are a daily threat. Various armed ranger teams are on patrol on rough land in order to uncover violations and to convict criminals. The training and equipment for the rangers, which we have focused on in particular since the beginning of the project, are now also used in other conservation areas. Thanks to their presence, the patrolling teams reduce attacks on tigers, pangolins, langurs and other endangered species. For example, a clear increase in the tiger population is evident in one of our partner projects since the patrols were professionalized.
With an area of almost 3000 square kilometers, the Kaeng Krachan National Park is the largest continuous conservation area in Thailand. The Western Forest Complex WEFCOM extends a further 75 kilometers north with its conservation areas along the Thai border with Burma. Together, the Kaeng Krachan National Park and the WEFCOM comprise the largest and most biodiverse forest area in the entire south east Asia region. A corridor between these two conservation areas in being planned. It will protect the traditional migration routes of the elephants in the long term and likewise ensure genetic exchange for tigers, gibbons, tapirs and other endangered species.
The dusky leaf monkey is one of more than 50 mammal species in the Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Manoon Pliosungnoen, WCS Thailand: Environmental Scientist Manoon Pliosungnoen has worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Thailand since 2009 as a Project Manager in the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex.
The curator Cordula Galeffi heads the Kaeng Krachan and Lewa division and is the project leader for the Kaeng Krachan nature conservation project. She is in close contact with partners in Thailand, follows developments and visits the project regularly. The behavioral biologist is a member of the species committee for Asian elephants in the European Association for Zoos and Aquaria EAZA.