Arborists called in to rescue 'comic islet' tree

Arborists called in to rescue 'comic islet' tree

Selfie-crazy tourists flocking to popular spot in Trat might be loving it to death

The tiny islet known as Koh Khai Hua Roh in Trat is home to a 100-year-old taban tree. (Photo supplied/Jakkrit Waewkraihong)
The tiny islet known as Koh Khai Hua Roh in Trat is home to a 100-year-old taban tree. (Photo supplied/Jakkrit Waewkraihong)

Arborists have been called in to save the sole taban tree that occupies almost all of a tiny islet known as Koh Khai Hua Roh after it was severely damaged by visitors.

The “comic islet” — the Thai moniker refers to drawings in a popular comic book about a stranded couple — has become a big tourist draw in the eastern province of Trat.

Fans of the Khai Hua Roh (Selling Laughter) comic book owned by Banlue Group spotted the tree and gave the island its nickname. The Trat office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) subsequently worked with the group to promote it.

The islet is part of Koh Nok Nok, in tambon Koh Mak of Koh Kut district. The taban tree (Xylocarpus rumphii) is about 100 years old.

Patiyut Burapat, director of the Trat Forest Centre, says tourists flock to the site to take photos. Some even climb the tree, resulting in its lengthy roots being stomped on, he said, adding that it cannot be treated and restored like other trees due largely to its unusual location.

“Authorities will coordinate with arborists to check and restore the tree as it has also been damaged by tree disease and insects,” he said.

There are concerns that the tree could collapse in the future, especially if tourists are permitted to clamber all over it to take selfies.

“We must raise awareness among tourists to maintain the environment and the tree. Authorities will also come up with a plan to create more sustainable tourism soon,” he said.

Nipon Suddhidhanakool, chairman of the Koh Mak Tourism Community Enterprise, said clear routes to and from the islet should be mapped out and tourists asked to avoid stepping on the tree roots. He champions promoting eco-tourism to maintain the tree.

In addition, specific locations for taking photos must be set up and the volume of tourists limited to protect the islet and tree, he said, adding that warning signs must also be erected.

Koh Khai Hua Roh, known as the “comic islet” in Trat, has become a magnet for tourists. (Photo supplied/Jakkrit Waewkraihong)


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