The Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Centre is proof that Phuket is not all about attracting the most number of tourists and earning millions in tourism revenues. It is also about conserving nature and wildlife.
Located in the southwest-coast of Thailand, Phuket is the country’s largest and most popular island-province. As it began to emerge as a leading tourist destination in the 1970′s, the local government feared that its natural treasures could all be converted into purely tourist attractions, placing them at the tender mercies of various passersby and travelers who might not have as large a vested interest in keeping them intact. In April 1977, the Provincial Services of Phuket decreed to preserve and protect a certain wooded area and in July 1980, the northeast district of Thalang was chosen to become Phuket’s official reserve, although the Khao Phra Thaeo forest had already been declared as a wildlife sanctuary as early as July 1969. It is in this part of Phuket where the Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Centre is now located.
The Khao Phra Thaeo forest is a well-preserved tropical rainforest, which is now a rarity in Thailand and in many parts of Asia. The forest is filled with giant trees with creepers and climbers and rich flora and fauna. It is home to a rare palm species, the Governor’s Palm or White Back Palm. It also the natural habitat of many Thai animals that could have been extinct if not for this wildlife center.
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These animals include the barking deer, wild boar, mouse deer, bear, gibbons, monkeys, porcupines, lizards and a number of bird species. These animals, by the way, are not for public viewing, since they are living deep into the dense jungle. This is not a zoo where animals are on display. They are in their natural habitat and afraid of any visiting human beings. It is simply amazing to know that such wildlife still thrive in this part of the island.
Gibbons are of special interest here. Inside the wildlife center is the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (GRP), which was established in 1992 by the Royal Forest Department in Phuket.
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The goal of GRP is to rehabilitate white-handed gibbons back into their natural habitat, end the market demand for gibbons, and repopulate the rainforest.
The forest is also a bird lover’s paradise.
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Native to this part of Thailand are the Asian Fairy-bluebird, Red-Billed Malkoha, Green Leafbird, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and Brahminy Kite. There are also Forest wagtails, Blue-Winged Pitta, and Siberian Blue Robins migrating here from October to March.
Around and nearby this 22.28-ha wildlife center are the National Park, restaurants, picnic areas, a children’s playground, a 2-km trek and the two most popular waterfalls in the Phuket, the Bang Pae and Ton Sai Waterfalls. Admission to the National Park, which includes access to the waterfalls, is 200 baht for foreigners. One the other hand, admission to the wildlife conservation center is free.
To reach the Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Centre, take road 4027 about 9 km from the Two Heroines Monument. It is 20 km away from the Phuket International Airport.