Northern Thailand fires killing off wildlife, protected plants

04 April 2019

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THAILAND : Chiang Mai (The Nation) – BEYOND the harm done to human health by the smouldering blanket of forest fires in the North, concern has arisen for wildlife and rare plants on the slopes of Doi Luang Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai.

The mountain is the only locale in Thailand where “sub-alpine vegetation” grows.

Meanwhile, the charred remains of monkey, junglefowl and peacock have been found in the ashes of forest fires.

Firefighters extinguished two major blazes on Doi Luang Chiang Dao this week, at Tham Chiang Dao and Doi Sam Phi Nong, but not before 400 rai of trees were burned down. As specialists were about to inspect damage to vegetation and wildlife, Chiang Dao wildlife sanctuary chief Pakasit Rawiwan said another fire had ignited on nearby Doi Nang.

Teerawat Thongma of the Chiang Dao organic-farming group said yesterday the forest fires burning on Doi Luang Chiang Dao since March 27 posed a serious threat to sub-alpine vegetation and protected wildlife.

As of press time, flames on Doi Luang Chiang Dao had been put down though white smoke could be seen rising in several spots. Officials, meanwhile, were building fire breaks around Salung Reservoir near the top of Doi Luang for wildlife to take refuge.

The wildlife at risk on Doi Luang include the goral – a goat-like creature that resides in steep mountainous areas, which is among the 15 species protected by Thai law and CITES due to their near-extinction status. According to a 2017 survey, there are only 90 goral at Doi Chiang Dao, of which 65 are adult, 17 mid-sized and eight kids.

Water, food sources affected

Other sites in Thailand where goral can be found are Doi Mon Jong in the Omkoi Wildlife Sanctuary, Doi Liam and Doi Chiang Dao – all in Chiang Mai as well as Tak’s Mae Ping National Park.

Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation’s chief veterinarian Pattarapol “Dr Lot” Manee-on said smoke from forest fires could cause slower moving animals to choke or sustain burns, while swift, but easily-spooked ones like goral, could get injured from falling.

He called on people to ring the 1362 hotline if they spot injured wildlife. He also said the fires have also had an adverse impact on water and food sources for wildlife.

Similar situations exist elsewhere in the upper North, where naturally occurring forest fires and deliberately lit outdoor fires together amounted to 793 hotspots as of 3am yesterday.

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency said Mae Hong Son had 372 hotspots, Chiang Mai 161 and Chiang Rai 112.

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