Wildlife and National Parks of Thailand
- Written by Luke Stokes
I decided to spend a few days down at Kaeng Krachan before it shuts next week for the rainy season, we had a great time including one of the most amazing leopard experiences of my life. This male allowed us to view him for about 20 minutes whilst he slinked in and out of the undergrowth curiously looking at my parked car.
A truly unforgetable trip and I am truly thankful that we were this lucky to see this gorgeous feline alive and well in its natural environment. I really never thought I would ever see, let alone photograph the leopard in Thailand. It just goes to show there is no replacement for time spent in the forest and most of all luck!!
Richard L Stokes
Article and Photographs copyright Richard L Stokes
Jos ; Thanks again! According to my understanding, some professionals in the field, and the rangers at KK, the leopard population is doing OK. I am led to believe it is in fact the Tigers numbers which have dropped significantly in recent years at KK.
Yes the photo was taken along the road, if the leopard was anywhere other than the main road I vary much doubt me or anyone would be able to spot him!
The park is closed 1st August to 31st October
The weather was so bad I had to have the windows up, however just as we approached the KM36 marker and rounded a right hand corner there in the road were 2 Southern Serow, by the look of it a mother and calf but before I could even get the camera in my hand let alone take a shot the pesky things scampered off the road and over a seemingly vertical edge. I confess I didn't know what they were immediately and had to confide in my Mammals of Thailand Handbook for a correct identification.
With some newfound optimism in me after at least seeing something living we wandered on back up to Panern tung not long after 4 o clock. After chewing the fat with the rangers up there for 10 mins I decided to go back down, the weather was still horrendous at this point and sure enough about 20 mins into the drive back there was a big tree gone down right across the trail. Now I knew we were the last truck so there was no one behind us who might be able to help/advise us on what to do. So we u-turned ( just about managed it as the track was pretty narrow) and went back to Panern Tung to summon up the lads and their chainsaw. After they nourished the machine back to working order, they informed me that their motorbike was broken so I would have to run them back to Panern Tung again after they had finished removing the tree. " No problem" I said but lets get moving as I am going to be pretty late getting back by this stage.
So we get to the blockage, they have it down and removed in about 20 mins. I run them back to the station again and begin what I hope to be the last drama of the day as it is 5.30pm, its really dark and I dont know if there are any more trees further on. No such dramas and we continue on..
Shortly before 6pm, and just as the rain has started to ease we round a steep left hand bend and there 60-70 metres in front of us is a Indochinese Leopard. I quickly turn the engine off and " shssshhh" my girlfriend. It is lying on the road and notices us, he then gets up and heads for the undergrowth before popping its head out on multiple occasions to check on the strangers on his turf. The leopard then starts to move towards us as if checking us out all thew while going in and out of view as he skirts the fringes of visibility. I manage to fire of some shots out of the window but I am hideously contorted round the frame of the car trying to get the right angle, luckily it seems a few have come out. We stay for 20-25 mins before he finally leaps down the cliffside leaving us completely speechless and flabbergasted at what we have just witnessed/experienced.
It was then a surreal drive back down to Baan Krang and on and out of the park by 7pm.
A truly unforgettable time and more than the photos will ever mean to me is the knowledge that this most beautiful, majestic cat survives and continues to exist despite many factors in the jungles here in Thailand. I slept very well that night!
Some more shots of him..
I've got some reasonable shots from Africa, but Africa is for beginners. Thailand is the real thing! Thick jungle with low numbers of magnificent elusive large cats. Just to see one is so incredibly special, to return home with these pictures... impossible!
Thanks for sharing!
I've seen some old guys in Africa that probably had to deal with a lot more competition than might be the case in the Asian forests but they actually looked terrible, haha. Once, I was looking at one resting up in a tree in Kruger that had lost one ear. While waiting for it to 'wake up' and leave the tree, all of a sudden at the other side of the river, an even bigger male showed up that had lost an eye, but still appeared to be well-fed. It was the biggest leopard I have ever seen. And with only one eye also one of the scariests...
IMO the beauty you photographed is just too perfect to be much older than 2 - 3 years, but I might be wrong...
All the best!
You make a good point on the rigours of fighting off competition making life a little more tough for the African leopards compared to their asian cousins. One time in Sabi Sands we saw a 11 year old leopard have a stand-off and subsequent chase of a much younger 3-4 year old leopard. The difference in size and appearance was so great it was almost like a separate species! The old boy still came out on top though!
I know Leopards are good climbers, but still surprising they manage to catch one of the fastest animals in the tree tops. Really must have caught it by surprise.
Thanks for sharing!
Heres a web excerpt ....
There are a number of potential predators of adult or infant lar gibbons. These may include clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa), marbled cats (Pardofelis marmorata), Asian golden cats (Catopuma temmincki), leopard cats (Prionailurus bengalensis) tigers (Panthera tigris), leopards (Panthera pardus), pythons (Python sp.), hawk eagle species (Spizaetus sp.), black eagles (Ictinaetus malayensis), and crested sepent eagles (Spilornis cheela) (Reichard 1998; Uhde & Sommer 2002). White-bellied sea eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster) are also capable of taking a lar gibbon (Ellefson 1974). Lar gibbons may mob and chase off potential predators (Reichard 1998; Uhude & Sommer 2002).
Source: Primate Info Net
But if we think about the Leopard then is anything really suprising? they are known across their range to take prey as diverse as Wildebeest, gazelle, baboons, monkeys,antelopes, snakes, birds, crocodiles, jackals,hares, other cat species, gibbons, lizards, insects, rodents, feral dogs. The hunting prowess and adaptability is simply amazing and I wonder If there is any other animal that can get close to this range of potential prey?? Quite incredible and testament to a quite exceptional product of evolution..
Good info! I guess the gibbons are not massive fans of Felines then!! Still difficult to picture a gibbon being plucked out of the branches unless it walked straight into an ambush or maybe I am underestimating cats arboreal skills..!
However after zooming in on the face I am now not convinced. I suppose the tail could be hidden behind the body and looking at the face close in it does appear to more resemble a langur's as you have suggested.
But do I understand correctly that it's indeed the face on the left of the Leopard's nose and not a paw?
In that case I'm quite sure it isn't a gibbon face. But not sure what it could be. I have little knowledge about Langurs, but it does seem to have the white 'glasses' like a Dusky Langur.
But in the end it's anyway a very special picture/ sighting.
However, In this case it appears I was too hasty to announce the dead primate as a gibbon and I find myself leaning towards xenocrab's conclusion of a sub-adult langur.
However Trekker's observations are also correct, it has neither that infant orange colour nor the darker colouration of an adult langur which is where the sub-adult conclusion may fit in..
Im not sure about a stump talied macaque either, it doesnt appear to have that reddish face the macaques have. juvenile could be an option but Im not really experienced enough to make a call..
Let's just say that the only thing we know for certain is that it is dead and that I was very lucky to witness this!!