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


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
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Thai PBS discovers Phana

Back in December we were approached by a film company based in Ubon which had been commissioned by the TV channel Thai PBS to make a film of the Phana Monkey Project. They were with us for three full days and recorded several hours of video, in Don Chao Poo Forest and in the Rin-Homhuan Mahanil Study Centre.

Elliot, Julia, Tessa and Lydia all took part, as did students from Phanasuksa School who came to us for Science lessons relating to the forest.

The film as shown here has been split into two parts. We hope you will watch both, though much of it is in Thai, of course. We intend to add English subtitles, but that will take some time. When we have done that, we will post the film again.

Phana Monkey Part 1
Phana Monkey Part 2
Posted in Amnat Charoen Province, Litter, Litterbins, Dustbins, Macaques, monkey forest, Monkeys, Phana Monkey Project | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2013–The Year in Pictures–and a few words

As 2013 draws to a close, the Phana Macaque Project (aka Phana Monkey Project) looks back at the researchers and volunteers who have made this a wonderfully productive year for us.

After the first four volunteer researchers helped us to set up the project in 2012, we started advertising for volunteer researchers on the University of Wisconsin’s PIN (Primary Information Network) site and in December 2012 we advertised for volunteers through Midway through 2013 we added to the sites where we advertised. But it seems that our advertisements have been taken up by several other platforms, unbeknownst to us.

We have welcomed 24 researchers / volunteers in 2013 and they have stayed for between a week and three months. Our first volunteer arrived on 3rd January 2013 and he stayed with us a month. Yiannos spent all day and everyday in the forest, completely absorbed in the life of the monkeys. He left us with some valuable information about dysmorphic monkeys (about nine of them, old females mostly but also some younger ones as well as  two males) and injured monkeys. But no photograph of himself.

Steve and Sarah taught for a month at Ban Muang Sawat Primary school and the local council-run kindergarten, as well as spending time in the forest. It was about this time that a young male monkey got into the habit of climbing on us, not something we encourage but it was difficult to prevent. As 2013 closes we are a little pleased that he seems to have outgrown the habit. Here he is with Sarah, who was well prepared for him:

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Sarah was a hit with lots of the local children she taught, too:

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But Steve was a somewhat Big Friendly Giant (BFG) presence in the forest:


They were both giants by Phana standards:


The Little Friendly Monkey (LFM) got to know many of the volunteers who came after Steve and Sarah.

Liz                                                                       Bekah

Liz 3 Bekah


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Manuela 3  Manuela 1


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                                                     Joy                                                                             Amy

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Antonio and Bekah                                                  … and two of the girls they taught

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Amy taught too (though it may not look like that)

Amy teaching

Thomas worked on skeletons          … and so did Simon

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Carol-Ann was only photographed in the forest at night

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Liz came to Phana to get away from insects … but she couldn’t resist them and made us a wonderful collection

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Ethan became fascinated by monkey poo … and found some interesting specimens


Felipe spent several weeks tracking a troop of monkeys and you can see his research paper above. But first he conducted an autopsy on a female monkey that had been found recently dead only an hour or so before he arrived.

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Everybody got to ride a bicycle but not everyone was shot doing so

                                                                Liz                                                                                                Ethan

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Several people got to sample Kalyani’s breakfasts but Ethan did better than most:

Ethan & Kalyani

Eating obviously plays a big part in one’s life in Phana – and everywhere in Thailand):

Dinner at Lek's  Maria Kalyani Siriwan

French Crepes prepared by Joy and Lauriane were a highlight:

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And for Tessa and Julia, these fried crickets were, too!

Tessa & Julia

At CHRISTMAS 2013 Pensri and Lawrence were joined at home by Julia, Lydia and Tessa and by the two Project Trust volunteers Cameron and Kevin. The kitchen was very crowded indeed!

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TEACHING is one of the things that we like to get involved with. We put on a one-day course for the Continuing Education Centre with the help of two Project Trust volunteers, Claire Mitchell (seen here, standing) and Robyn Stewart:


Liz and  Maria helped with teaching Ban Tham Yae Primary School who came to us for classes



Lydia, Julia, Tessa and Ellliott all taught Phanasuksa students who came for Science lessons in English focussing on the monkeys of Don Chao Poo (M1) and Bio-diversity of the forest:

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Amy and Jeff came and produced dissertations for their MSc in Animal Behaviour:

Amy & Jeff

We fed the monkeys

Emma                                                                                                                                            Lydia

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We gave them water


and we counted them, followed them, watched them, photographed them, picked up litter after them … and loved them!

Phana Monkey Project is a small project but it seems to foster togetherness in its volunteers. Here are some of them together:

Antoine & FelipeElliott & TessaAntoine Manuela Ethan Liz Simon

IMG_3869IMG_3878Julia Lydia Elliott

Tessa Lydia Julia

But maybe the two outstanding memories of 2013 have nothing to do with the monkey forest, but everything to do with music.

Antoine became a drummer for a festive parade


and Simon not only taught the macarena to these children

Simon 3

but check out this short video to see how he spent many evenings at the Study Centre

Phana Monkey Project would like to thank all the researchers and volunteers who have helped us so much throughout 2013. And most of all we thank you for your company — we have enjoyed ourselves this past year and we hope you and our readers have done so too. Good luck to you all in 2014!

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Busy in the Forest


It is amazing how much a dedicated volunteer researcher can achieve in a short time. Laura Brodey was with us for just under three weeks but she left a substantial body of work behind her when she left earlier this week. She located and tracked eight nursing mothers and analysed their interactions with other monkeys. She was particularly interested in seeing to what extent they were willing to entrust their babies to other monkeys and how far they allowed the babies to roam from them.

Here is one mother who interacted with another female for some time during which the two groomed each other: (as always, CLICK on an image for an enlarged view)

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You can read Laura’s analysis of these monkeys’ behaviour by clicking on the RESEARCH PAPERS page above.

Laura also began a study of the termite mounds that she located within 10m of part of the “Buddha Path”. She used our hand-held GPS (Garmin Dakota 10) to help her map their location and she also recorded data about each mound. Here is one of them, an active mound and one of the largest:


Laura also photographed a range of fauna in the forest, this being our first sighting of what appears to be some sort of orange-tailed skink:


We had seen this red-necked keelback snake before but these are better photos than we had got previously:

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We have been seeing Indo-Chinese ground squirrels for a couple of years now, too, but they are very shy creatures and again this is a better shot than any we had before:


And like Elliot Capp and Liz Cassidy before her, Laura was always keen to photograph the butterflies:


Like these monkeys, we shall miss Laura in the forest and in Phana!

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Posted in Bio-diversity, Butterflies, Indochinese ground squirrels, lizards & skinks, Long-tailed Macaques, Snakes, wildlife photography | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Establishing the range of one troop of long-tailed macaques

One troop of long-tailed macaques living in Don Chao Poo Forest, Phana, Amnat Charoen Province, Thailand, was chosen as a study into the ranging of the monkeys inside and outside the forest and the behaviours they evidenced during the course of a number of days.

The particular troop selected for the study is one which does not seem to compete openly for the human provisioning which the other three troops seem to rely heavily upon. It is also the troop which has been observed spending time in the grounds of Phana District Hospital, roosting on the edge of the forest adjoining the western perimeter of the hospital.

Felipe do Carmo Jorge, a primatologist from Brazil, spent a month with us and almost all of that time he spent on this project, which he devised and implemented himself.  We are very grateful to him for his work, which has moved our knowledge of the resident long-tailed macaques considerably.

Here you can see the tracking he recorded

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and the feeding sites he marked:

Pic 2 Felipe

You can read his complete paper by clicking on the RESEARCH PAPERS page.

This paper is published here with grateful thanks to the author, Felipe do Carmo Jorge.

Posted in Bio-diversity, Long-tailed Macaques, Macaca Fascicularis, Macaques, Monkeys, Phana Monkey Project, Research | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment