The Magic of Don Chao Poo Forest, Phana

Don Chao Poo Forest, in Phana, Amnat Charoen Province, is regularly described as a ‘magical’ place. Residents of Phana who regard the forest as the home of the village’s guardian spirit, might not find this surprising.

The forest itself may seem magical:

Buddha Path      forest interiorforest trees      tall treetrees in forest

But the forest is more than trees:

mushrooms 2      mushrooms 3mushrooms in forest      termite mounds

And then there is the fauna, though sighting these is rare and requires time and patience:

ground squirrel 1      ground squirrel 2

ground-nesting squirrels are quite numerous but very shy

baby bird 1      baby bird 2Liz bird 1      Liz bird 2owl baby      owl in forest

Birds are heard, especially early in the morning and towards evening, but are rarely seen.

monitor on ground      monitor on treeskink 1      skink 2skink with orange tail      snake red-neck keelbacksnake walls bronzeback      tokay at shrine

Skinks and Monitor lizards  are the most frequently seen reptiles, snakes and tokay geckos the rarest.

Bees build elaborate hives high in the trees:

bee hive hanging      bee hive in branches

and there are thousands of butterflies … but I challenge you to get a better photo of one than this:

red butterfly

and how do you like these two?

frog in small pond      scorpion

As if all that forest life was not enough, the main attraction is undoubtedly the large tribe of long-tailed macaques which inhabit the forest. To a large extent they are dependent on human provisioning and so they are habituated to humans. They will steal bags from you – so don’t bring them into the forest – and the same goes for small items like cameras, mobile phones, sun glasses, that sort of thing, if you have them with you, hang on to them at all times. The monkeys are still fearful and defensive, so don’t try to touch them. Nevertheless, you can get close to them but closer than a metre or so makes them uncomfortable and they don’t like you running around and shouting or screaming.

Keeping these things in mind, you will surely enjoy observing their activities and their social behaviour. Here are some photos to whet your appetite for these fascinating creatures:

monkey ad m with corn & young    monkey alertmonkey in rain    monkey juv with root vegmonkey standing holding ball    monkey running with ballmonkey solitary thoughtful   mother and juvenile

monkey in rain    monkey with cloth in tree    monkeys huddling    monkeys on blue bike    monkey twins & friend

A big thank you to all the volunteers whose photos appear here. They enjoyed their time in the forest, and you can see how productive it was in the photographic sense!

Posted in Bees, Bio-diversity, Butterflies, lizards & skinks, Long-tailed Macaques, Monitor lizards, monkey forest, Snakes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monkey on Tour

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For the second year running a monkey (this monkey?) has visited our house THE DAY WE LEFT for England, with the intention of eating our last mango. Last year he succeeded. This year the mango was at the end of a dangerously slim branch so he had second thoughts and went back home to the forest. Sorry about that, Mr Monkey.

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Trees and Bees

Contibuted by Pensri Mahanil Whiting

In April 2014 we found 8 beehives in Don Chao Poo Forest. It started when James, Pensri and some of her relatives went to Don Chao Poo to GPS map the location of the Yang trees (mostly Dipterocarpus Alatus Roxb. ex G.Don). Interestingly, all 8 hives are found on yang trees, with a colony of 4 hives on one tree and the other 4 hives on other trees, singly.

All 5 trees are in quite an open space surrounded by big communities of yang trees.

photo 1(1)   photo 2 photo 5     photo 5(1)

photo 2(2)

Later, James, Pensri and Tina measured the height of these yang trees. We found that the average height of the 4 tall trees is about 53 metres and the average height above the ground of the 7 hives on those trees is about 38 metres. The only beehive that is slightly apart from those 7 hives  on a medium sized yang tree of about 17 metres in height and the hive is about 7 metres above ground level.

Here are some of the hives we have found so far:

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The bees we found in Don Chao Poo have been identified as Apis dorsata, commonly called the Giant bee, or Phung Luang ผึ้งหลวง (Royal bee) in Thai. Here are some specimens we collected:

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A Walk in the Bark

Contributed by James Carruthers

I was leaving the forest recently, when out of nowhere there was an eruption of noise accompanied by almost every monkey in sight marauding with purpose towards the road. Having never experienced such intense energy produced by them I hurriedly made my way towards the epicentre of the commotion, suspecting a battle between two potential alpha males. As I reached the main gate the noise had elevated further, arising from more monkeys than I had ever witnessed in one area flooding the road and pavements.

After a few seconds I saw a group of large adult males which seemed to be pursuing a dog. In an effort to ascertain why, I made my way through the crowd of screeching monkeys to get closer, only to see a young juvenile monkey locked helplessly between the jaws of the ravaging hound. After several minutes, the adult males managed to surround the fleeing dog, but not a single monkey approached it to within striking distance. What seemed to overcome the dog was a bizarre combination of boredom and fear as he dropped the juvenile and continued along the road, still followed closely by a large group of aggressive adult males who were re enforced further by the rest of the monkeys.

I was surprised by the fact that as the juvenile lay motionless, only two other monkeys, both young, inspected it briefly before moving on. As the dog drew further away and the situation began to simmer, I cautiously approached it myself to see if there was any sign on life. After a few short seconds the monkey gasped its final breath and its eyes closed, resigning itself back to the earth. The rest of the monkeys went back to their business with the danger to each individual diminished with the now absence of the dog and I was struck by a moment of sadness, to think that only 10 minutes ago this young monkey was joyfully playing in the place where it now peacefully lay. A tragic event in many ways; ultimately, however, it is just another example of the sometimes vicious circle of life.

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Surveying the forest

Mahidol University (Amnatcharoen post-graduate campus) has been running an ambitious project under the patronage of the Crown Princess. The aim of the project is to conserve what is left of the forests in Isan, North-east Thailand; and the starting points for conservation are to know what you have and to understand why it is worth conserving.

Don Chao Poo Forest in Phana District of Amnat Charoen Province is currently being surveyed following a pattern or model that has already been established in about a dozen other forests in the province. Mahidol University has developed the model and provides guidance and assistance but the surveys themselves are carried out by local people, thus establishing their ‘ownership’ of the project as well as equipping them with skills in science-based research.

March 2014 / 2557 saw the first steps in this process. A group gathered in Don Chao Poo Forest to establish the boundaries of the forest. All the ‘stakeholders’ were represented:

Khun Ratana, Deputy Mayor, Phana Municipality     Khun Kanok, Mayor, OTP Phana & Lawrence, Phana Monkey Project

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Senior citizens of Phana, including two ‘wise men’                   A Long-tailed macaque of Don Chao Poo Forest

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                             Khun Kasemsan, our mentor                          James, on work placement with PMP & Khun Add of Phana Municipality

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Pensri, of PMP and Acharn Tatsanaporn of Phanasuksa School, co-ordinators of the project

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The two ‘wise men’. Khun Puta and Khun Tongdun, both residents of Phana, are already proving invaluable to the project. They are experts in identifying trees and plants and the use of plants in herbal medicine.

The survey of Don Chao Poo Forest started on March 29th and a further survey will be carried out on 2nd April. But this is just the start. Watch out here and on our Facebook page (Thai Monkey Forest) for updates on this exciting project.

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Foraging in Don Chao Poo Forest

Long-tailed macaques in Don Chao Poo Forest, Phana, have been finding natural food available in the forest since late January. They can be seen foraging on the ground for insects or eating leaves and flowers in the trees. For many, a useful source of food is the seed pods that drop from the tall yang trees (dipterocarpus alatus).

Long-tailed macaque (adult male) foraging on the ground in Don Chao Poo Forest, Phana, Amnat Charoen Province, Thailand

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The trees are taller than these monkeys like to climb, so they wait until the food-source has fallen to the ground.

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Posted in Amnat Charoen Province, Long-tailed Macaques, Macaca Fascicularis, Monkeys, Phana Monkey Project | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Newborn long-tailed macaque

By Laura Malaguti at Phana Monkey Project

On the morning of 31st January 2014, I was doing the routine count at 10 o’clock when I stumbled across an adult female who appeared to be in pain, so I thought. She was standing tall on her two legs and was pushing so hard that blood was coming out. Getting more concerned, I called James, a fellow volunteer, over and he said she was probably just having piles. Three other monkeys had gathered around her by this point and seemed to be comforting her so we decided to leave her to it and come back later and check. About 30 minutes later, I walked back and she had given birth!! What an extraordinary sight, my eyes filled up. I was so happy and felt so very lucky to be here and to be able to see this. Then I ran to tell James and tried to call Lawrence to come and see. The Mum was now holding her newborn and was trying to chew away the umbilical cord. She was holding and cleaning him/her (time will tell !) with all her strength. After letting me watch her for a few minutes, she ran into the forest with her baby.

I already loved monkeys before coming to Phana…this particular occurrence has only reinforced that feeling.

Lawrence adds:  I am sure that James now realises that pregnancies and births are much more prevalent than piles amongst our long-tailed macaque population!

I came on the scene about 35 minutes after the birth, and unlike Laura and James I had my camera with me. In the pictures below you will see the new mother’s “support group” almost certainly made up of her close female relatives. The one male present received close attention from an adult female the whole time I was there.

I saw the new mother and newborn infant arrive and sit down next to an older female, quite possibly the babies’ grandmother. These three stayed close next to each other the whole time I was observing the group.

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Another adult female present (below left)  received grooming as well as the male (below right). This may have been in order to divert attention from the mother and baby in order to avoid any jealousy, perhaps.

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The younger members of the “support group” spent much of the time sleeping – as did ‘Granny’ off and on.

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Here is a short video of the mother and newborn long-tailed macaque as the mother consumes the umbilical cord.

Long-tailed macaque mother with infant less than one hour old
Posted in Long-tailed Macaques, Macaques, monkey forest, Phana Monkey Project | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment