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


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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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:

Sarah 2

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

Sarah 3

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

Antonio & Bekah  Antonio & Bekah (2)

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

Amy teaching

Thomas worked on skeletons          … and so did Simon

Thomas  Simon 2

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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

Liz 4  Liz 2

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.

Felipe 1

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

                                                                Liz                                                                                                Ethan

2007-01-03 01.04.58   Ethan



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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Tessa & M1   M1 Phanasuksa 3rd Visit 2013-12-13 029

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

Amy & Jeff

We fed the monkeys

Emma                                                                                                                                            Lydia

DSC06204   Laura B feeding monkeys 2

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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