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Roads Through Wilderness Areas Inevitably Lead to Problems

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The road through Khao Ang Rue Nai wildlife sanctuary, in Chachoengsao province, will be closed at night to stop wild elephants stopping and raiding cargo trucks. ''A herd of about 20 elephants frequently blocks the road and holds up cargo trucks until a bundle of sugarcane, tapioca or pineapple is tossed to them as a highway fee,'' Chachoengsao governor Arnont Promnart said yesterday. Otherwise, the truculent animals would attack and damage the trucks, as happened on Jan 6.

Effective in the next few days, the 14.7km route No. 3259 through the park _ the Ban Nong Kog-Ban Wang Nam Phon road _ will be closed from 9pm to 5am to prevent further danger to travellers and wildlife.

Mr Arnont said the matter was urgent because during the dry season wild animals would cross the road to drink at the Phutai reservoir at night. The governor acted on sanctuary chief Yoo Senatham's suggestion after the elephants' behaviour became worse, with two herds now involved in the pillaging at night. Mr Yoo said he feared the elephants would get accustomed to being fed by travellers and that habit would put the animals and travellers at risk. However, the raids are no longer limited to the night.

''Just today [Thursday], a big male elephant of over 1,000 kilogrammes stood in the middle of the road about 9am. On seeing a motorcycle coming, the animal fearlessly approached it,'' he said.

A special elephant-scaring team has been set up to prevent the elephants being hit by vehicles and attacking people. The sanctuary foundation, chaired by former army chief Gen Pravit Wongsuwan, has put up roadside warnings and handed out 10,000 leaflets telling travellers to beware and to stop feeding the animals.

Over the past five years, three people and 14,408 wild animals have died in car accidents on route No. 3259. The 643,750 rai sanctuary spills into five provinces: Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, Chanthaburi, Sa Kaew and Prachin Buri.

Information from Bangkok Post, 19th January 2006.


14,408 wild animal deaths on one road in just four years is an unbelievably high number and just goes to prove how damaging to wildlife fragmentation of their habitat is. Although a road may not seem much of an imposition upon a wildlife area in terms of the loss of area involved, roads greatly increase the amount of edge habitat and the "edge effect" upon the core areas. Roads are a serious problem for wildlife trying to cross it, as this article proves, not to mention that certain species simply will not cross them, effectively creating two isolated populations with little or no transference of genes. Depleted gene pools can leave species more vulnerable to catastrophic events such as disease. Another issue surrounding roads through wildlife areas is that it allows poachers to enter and encourages encroachment into areas previously inaccessible to developers. In Thailand this can often include development by the National Park authority.

Nick Upton, 20/01/07

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