New rules set for gaur-spotting
Nakhon Ratchasima: The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) has agreed on a set of wildlife spotting rules with a famous Buddhist monastery located in the Khao Phaengma Non-Hunting Area.
The rules were set after a video of the abbot of Subthawee Dhammaram Monastery, Phra Kanha Sookkamo, leading a gaur-spotting tour in an area designated as off-limits by park authorities, went viral on social media.
The video showed the abbot and his team driving through a restricted part of Khao Phaengma Non-Hunting Area in Wang Nam Khieo district, adjacent to the monastery.
Witnesses said the convoy acted "like VIPs" and the sound of their engines scared the gaurs, concerning many who feared the gaurs may run amok and attack them.
After the video went viral, a probe found the monastery did not ask for permission to enter the restricted area, prompting the DNP to invite Phra Kanha Sookamo for talks early last week.
"The monastery understands our regulations and pledged to be more cooperative and observe the rules. They promise to seek permission before entering off-limit areas in the future," said the director of Protected Areas Office 7, Sitthichai Sereesongsaeng, at a media briefing about the discussion.
Subthawee Dhammaram monastery is famous among those in the upper reaches of Thai society and counts many high-ranking military officers among its followers.
The monastery is also known for working closely with residents and the DNP on community development.
They helped fund the 10-kilometre-long electrified fence to stop wild gaurs from venturing into residential areas, Mr Sitthichai said.
It was reported the abbot told the DNP that he and his entourage had to trespass into the restricted area because he wanted to check on the state of the grass there after working with the department on a project to help protect the gaurs' source of food.
Located within Khao Yai National Park, the 5,000-rai Khao Phaengma Non-Hunting Area is the best location to see gaurs in Thailand, as it is home to about 300 wild gaurs.
But their population is on the rise, posing questions about how gaurs can co-exist sustainably with the local community.