The KPT mountain range stretches from north to south in the Thalang district of Phuket. The elevation ranges from sea level to the highest peaks, which are between 450 and 500 m above sea level. KPT is completely surrounded by roads, villages and agricultural plantations. The road that today completely encircles KPT was built less than 50 years ago. The area is also completely enclosed by a barbed-wire fence.
On the west of the range are Trepkasatree and Sri Sonthon sub-districts where the protected area borders five villages: Baan Khanaen, Baan Khuan, Baan Pa, Khrong Chip, and Baan Liphon. This side of the range also features the park's headquarters, Baan Taak, and Ton Sai Waterfall, where there is access to the forest. On the east side of KPT is part of Paklock sub-district. The park borders three villages including Baan Paklock, Baan Bang Rong and Baan Para. On this side is the park's most used entrance, which provides access to Bang Pae Waterfall and other features of the project, notably the information center for visitors and the rehabilitation site.
See the Park's map
On the way out from the forest after conservation voluteer trip, while walk through the agricultural plantations and look down to nice view. (K0053, K0054, K0057, K0058 @Phamon Sumphanthamitr)
All the villages surrounding the forest completely rely on the streams running downhill from KPT for their water. The area immediately surrounding KPT is covered in rubber plantations, which provides a fluid transition from rain forest to plantation land. It appears that the actual rain forest surface has declined, both in quality and quantity. The reasons for deforestation include timber felling for the benefit of tin mining operations, for construction wood, for charcoal production and for the creation of rubber plantations.
Over the past century, the conservation of natural resources has proved itself a highly complicated issue. In order to protect natural resources from overexploitation, many governments took over land and resource management long ago. Thus, communally managed resources became state property, characterized by strongly centralized, top-down management strategies. This has often implied forced resettlement of villagers and increased poverty due to people’s exclusion from the natural resources they depend upon for their survival. The centralized conservation models are still very strong in many parts of the world, but apart from often severe social impacts, the environmental effects of these rigid management policies have lately turned out to be disappointing.
In Thailand, there is an enormous budget for the conservation of the forest. Officers have guns on their shoulders, aerial survey plans and in theory the authority to carry out enactment of conservation laws. However, the reality is that these means are not yet effective in this situation. The fauna and flora in most of government’s protected areas are in dramatic decline because of local poachering. The fact is that the communities living near the forests know their natural resources and surroundings very well, meaning that without their cooperation and participation the natural resources will never be safe.
"A male wild pig struggling in
a poacher's trap deep in the forest."
(M0002 @Owart Maprang)
Since the mid-seventies, as a result of both the democratization process as well as the failing of existing conservation policies, a reorientation on the management of natural resources has taken place that has slowly developed into the notion that local communities should be participating in the management of their natural environment. This is not to say that management should be solely in the hands of local communities, but rather that the situation ought to be one of shared responsibilities between local communities and government agencies.
The KPT forest has been encountering the same problems as other areas. Specifically, several illegal hunting and gathering activities are being carried out. Even now that some wildlife have become relatively scarce resources in KPT and hunting is strictly forbidden within its boundaries, it is beyond doubt that an unidentified number of hunters are still active in the area. This is proved by numerous hunting shelters, remains of camp fires, tree platforms, traps and empty cartridges which can be found throughout the forest as well as the gunshots that are frequently heard. This forest is also combed for various kinds of non-timber forest products all year round such as rattan stems, bamboo shoots, the young stem of Fish tail palms (Caryota mitis Lour), and seasoning products such as honey and various wild fruits.
"A temporary tree platform
(K0006 @Suwit Punnadee)
In order to conserve biological diversity, meet the economic needs of local communities and indigenous people, and reduce the need for poaching and illegal harvesting of forest products for income, the project will promote the sustainable use of biodiversity by generating income through increased visitation and volunteerism through the area.
"The tree platform set up on a strong branch
of an Aglaia sp tree, and a temporary camp of poachers." (K0005, K0025 @Suwit Punnadee)
Despite the fact that most foreigners visiting Phuket are mainly interested in the island’s splendid west-coast beaches, an area of great natural beauty like KPT forest can also be a popular attraction for both Thai and foreign visitors. Bang Pae waterfall, which in the monsoon season (May through to November) is most spectacular, can draw in many people in these months as an alternative to the beach. In addition, the GRP attracts many visitors interested in seeing animals. For the more dedicated eco-traveller, a 3-4 hour trek along the forest's nature trail is a very rewarding experience providing the opportunity to view a wide range of flora and fauna.
The project aims to educate and train members of the communities in the surrounding areas to become ecology lecturers and park rangers. Money from the project will go directly into the local economy, helping give economic value to forest preservation. Eventually, volunteerism will help finance the protection of ecologically sensitive areas and support the socio-economic development of communities in or near this area.