Phuket is among the first of ten provinces chosen by the Thai government for a revolutionary new administrative policy designed to speed up the implementation of tourism promotion and development projects. At the moment most Thai and foreigners visiting Phuket are attracted to the island’s splendid west-coast beaches, and often overlook areas of great natural beauty like Khao Phra Thaew forest.
Khao Phra Thaew currently is the only forest in the world where people have the opportunity to observe successfully reintroduced gibbons. White handed gibbons (Hylobates lar) are found throughout Thailand but are a highly endangered species (In IUCN Red list 2009 and listed in Appendix I of CITES) threatened with extinction due to poaching for the pet and tourist industries. Here at the national park in Phuket, animals who were once snatched from the wild and exploited by the illegal trade now have a second chance at freedom thanks to the gibbon rehabilitation programme which has been put in place.
Visitors to the park also have the chance to see other unique flora and fauna. This includes several endemic species of palm plants Kerriodoxa elegans, Iguanura thalangensis, Pinanga watanaiana; a lovely endemic gecko, the Phuket round-eyed gecko; and a tiny reddish waterfall crab often found along the nature-education trail.
"Khao Phra Thaew, as viewed
forest behind Bang Rong village."
The ecological field study activities in Khao Phra Thaew forest may prove to be a useful visitor attraction while at the same time promoting Phuket as a peaceful and tranquil destination. In the long term, such activities will encourage the preservation of natural resources and the environment as well as the sustainable development of tourism products, services and infrastructure.
Worldwide concern for the environment has created a demand for eco-friendly activities. Deforestation, over-hunting, and overuse of land have all contributed to a general decline in the condition of the forest. Eco-travel is becoming an increasingly popular concept and we hope to use it to help solve these problems in the Phra Theaw forest. However, we realize that if badly managed, the negative impact of such visitor can outweigh the positive, especially if not enough control is taken with group numbers. The forest can suffer from path clearing, soil compaction, disturbances to animal habitats and overall pollution.
Jungle trekking along the nature-education trail.
(K0003 @Phamon Sumphanthamitr)
Four main components that will contribute to viable eco-travel in the Phra Theaw forest are: (1) it is nature based, (2) there is a major focus on education, (3) the practices are environmentally friendly, (4) it involves local participation. We aim to integrate all four of these components into our project. We will educate people to be aware of the concept of eco-travel in order to preserve the environment.