Wildlife must be protected

Wildlife must be protected

This weekend, Khao Yai National Park is expected to welcome back a large number of tourists after a long break imposed under restriction measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

It's certain the reopening will see the local economy make a turnaround, but it could be a nightmare for wildlife as it is apparent that protection mechanisms are still weak.

In fact, Khao Yai National Park, a World Heritage site, provides clear evidence of our uncharted development policies, mismanagement and poor law enforcement by authorities that have put the site at risk. Too many development projects have divided the park into isolated spots that adversely affect the wildlife and migration. A crucial habitat for several species of wild creatures, the site is designated as a strategic transport route that leads to a well-paved road which enables careless motorists to break speed limits and kill hundreds of animals each year.

Shortly ahead of the Khao Yai reopening, park officials vowed to deal with reckless drivers who violate the 60 kilometre per hour speed limit. They say they will install speed control cameras and put in place other measures to control motorists' behaviour. But for many, such promises just seem to be brouhaha.

Let's face it. Uncontrolled tourism activities have disturbed the wildlife. In the first month of lockdown closures that began in late March, park officers released pictures showing many animals coming out and enjoying their newfound freedom.

This week, a renowned conservationist raised concerns about more empty promises by the state. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) has created a wildlife migration corridor on a 2,700-rai tract in the park which is part of the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, spanning Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Ratchasima and Prachin Buri provinces. This vast land tract was earmarked to be reforested back in 1996 to mark the 50th anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great's ascension to the throne.

Surapol Duangkhee, a veteran conservationist with the Thai Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, criticised the DNP for dragging its feet on the project, saying the tract has fallen victim to forest encroachment due to a lack of attention.

Mr Surapol blames unclear jurisdiction between the DNP or the Royal Forest Department over the designated land for the unjustified delay in getting the project off the ground. Encroachment by rich and influential investors is still going on, and authorities keep turning a blind eye.

To solve the problem, the network planned to petition the DNP to include the tract under its jurisdiction, so it can move to establish the planned wildlife corridor. For years, Unesco's World Heritage committee has urged the government to create wildlife corridors to link the park to nearby forest complexes -- such as the 5.09-million-rai Phu Khiao-Nam Nao Forest Complex.

The lack of a safe path, undisturbed by tourist activities, resulted in some wildlife animals taking risky routes. Last year, a dozen or so elephants fell to their deaths as they plunged to the bottom of a steep waterfall. Conservationists blamed park mismanagement that places tourism and money before wildlife welfare for the tragedy.

The DNP must pay heed to the conservationists' concerns. At the same time, it must dare to develop proactive policies.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : ploenpotea@bangkokpost.co.th

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