Leopard sightings now common in Thai forests prompting survey

Once rarely seen by visitors, sightings of leopards or panthers have become relatively common among tourists in Kraeng Krachan National Park, proof positive that Thailand’s work to protect and conserve endangered big cat species are bearing fruit.

The sightings have prompted the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to announce that it will cooperate with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to survey the population of leopards and panthers in Thailand to determine their numbers and locations. Initially, they will focus on the western forest complex, of which Kraeng Krachan is a part, as well as the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai and Phu Khieo-Nam Nao forest complexes.

An official at the Wildlife Conservation Department said that most experts believe there are only between 200 and 300 Indochinese leopards in the three forest complexes. A 2016 study estimated there are only 973 to 2,503 in all of Southeast Asia. Habitat loss is the main threat to the leopards and other big cats such as tigers.

Indochinese leopards (Panthera pardus delacouri) can have the orange, black and white spotted coats similar to those found in Africa or be completely black. In the western forest complex, they are mostly spotted, but further south they are often black. Leopards are, of course, dangerous predators and so Thai national parks officials are publicizing instructions for tourists on what to do should they encounter one.

Nonetheless, they are encouraging visitors to remain inside their vehicles, photograph them from safe distances and post their images to boost pride among Thais in the richness of the wildlife found in the Kingdom’s national parks and protected areas.

The Khao Sam Yod–Ban Krang Phanoen Thung Road through the park offers the best opportunities to spot the spotted cats and capture them on camera.

Photo courtesy of https://thainews.prd.go.th/th/news/