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You don’t know…

…what roams the depths of Khao Sok…

 

Elephant Hills’ Camera Trap Project

The Elephant Hills Camera Trap Project began in 2011, after the construction of Rainforest Camp had been completed. Nature enthusiasts as we are, we were eager to find out which animals roam in the rain forest around us. Hence we hid a couple of well-placed motion-triggered cameras deep in the jungle: The Camera Trap project was born.

Research focused on the Bang Chong area, part of the Khlon Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary, adjacent to Khao Sok National Park, and results were immediately amazing. Would you have known that lots of threatened and even as endangered classified species like wild Asian Elephants, Malayan Sun Bears, Gaurs, Asiatic Black Bears, Clouded Leopards, Malayan Tapirs or Asian Golden Cats live in closest proximity to where you are standing right now?

These days, in close co-operation with National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary authorities, we collect our camera footage every other month, take notes on the treks and try to evaluate migration patterns, reproduction probability and overall gain a better insight into the diverse fauna Khao Sok has to offer. Check out what we found!

Spring

Monsoon springs into action

April is Thailand’s hottest and driest month; dam water level reaches its lowest point. In May and June, the monsoon returns, temperatures cool down and rain starts falling again. You see: Conditions and experiences vary a lot in this time.

In April grounds are dry, footsteps very hard to find, paths covered with jungle debris. Wildlife hides in the shadows, but can occasionally be spotted near water holes or at the lake’s banks.

May and June Khao Sok experiences heavy rain falls, making the treks hard, the leeches active, and the conditions rather dangerous: Muddy, slippery trails, paired with impaired visibility and little chances of hearing anything, chances of surprise encounters with wildlife rise to an almost uncomfortable level.

But it is also the time when babies are born, and that makes up for any risk we take.

Summer

Wet and Wild

The ground is rain-sodden and muddy. In the middle of monsoon season this does not come as surprise. It usually is a tough walk on the wet, slippery ground. Fallen over trees do not simplify the trek, neither do those armies of leeches we encounter. Heavy rains prevent wildlife from smelling or hearing us coming closer, which could lead to potentially highly dangerous encounters.

But it is worth it. Wildlife is a lot livelier during monsoon. We often spot Lar Gibbons and Spectacled Langurs, as well as dozens of footprints – some of them only a few minutes old, as otherwise the rains would have washed them away: Elephants, gaurs, wild boars, serows and deer must have crossed our paths literally just before we arrived. Most amazing: This is also the main offspring-raising season! Lots of baby dung and baby footprints ornament the path. Then again: Having kids also makes parents super protective, which certainly does not make trekking any safer…

Autumn

Farewell monsoon         

Autumn marks the end of the monsoon season. It still rains, but you also do get glimpses of sunshine quite regularly. Usually an excellent time for both trekking and wildlife spotting. And to donate more blood to leeches.

Footprints are everywhere: Boar, deer, gaurs, elephants… and many of them often on tour with babies. On drier days, animals often make use of the mud and water holes; it can get quite busy around there. Nonetheless, most of the times they still manage to hide away just as we approach.

Still, we have to be super careful. Parents are still highly alarmed, and weather conditions often make it difficult to oversee all surroundings. Generally, animals are easily irritated in this season – it is the time with our highest loss of camera traps, falling victim to inquisitive elephants.

Winter

Welcome to Khao Sok, sunshine!

Winter is Khao Sok’s driest season. Days are often super sunny, and it is not too hot yet. Conditions are excellent for exploration excursions.

However, wildlife rather hides, and footprints are harder to depict due to the ground being dry, and leaves and branches covering the paths.

Especially around water holes there now is an increased activity. Footprints include elephants, gaurs, boars and deer. A rare encounter includes seeing a roughneck monitor lizard. And the cameras keep filming them all, plus serows and tapirs. Best places to film are a salt lick and a cave entrance. Cats and bears seem to be a little less active during these months. Hibernation in the tropics?

As water gets less, and even the water level of Cheow Larn Lake falls, more and more animals appear on the lake banks to drink, and can often been seen with bare eyes from a canoe.

One very memorable trip included an almost encounter with a wild elephant herd – we had to sprint up a hill and duck for cover, to then see shaking trees and breaking bamboos where we had just been about a minute ago.

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