Thung Chang protected area - golden orb spider
Golden Orb spider

Thung Chang Protected Area, Western Thailand

Thung Chang Protected Area - Wolf spider
Wolf spider

Thung Chang Protected Area lies adjacent to Sai Yok National Park and the Western Forest Complex. We visited the area in June 2009 for a night of camping. The owners of the only house inside the protected area invited us to visit their garden after dark, saying that flying squirrels often visit their fruiting trees at night. We waited under the trees for quite some time but the only mammals we saw were small bats tearing through the air after the insects attracted to the ripe fruits.

One of the most interesting creatures living in this area is the  Malayan Giant Frog (Limnonectes blythii) – the biggest frog in the region, with adults weighing over 1 kg. This species has quite a narrow distribution range along Thai-Burma border. I was told that in the earlier days the frogs were abundant here. But as we walked up and down the stream for a few kilometres we only spotted one juvenile.

We heard a different species call from the banks, but I only briefly spotted one individual and was not able to identify it. There was also plenty of Rachani crabs and fish in the stream.

Juvenile Malayan giant frog
Juvenile Malayan giant frog

Rats and Mice

Rodents were clearly the most abundant mammal group in the area.  I spotted the first bush rat running across some vegetation over the stream. It was most likely an Indomalayan Niviventer (Niviventer fulvescens). The second one we spotted up in a tree. It had an exceptionally long tail so based on that feature and the distribution range we identified it as a  Long-tailed Giant Rat (Leopoldamys sabanus). 

Next we glimpsed a mouse quite high above in the canopy of a bamboo bush. The mouse was not clearly visible and we couldn’t tell exactly what it was.Back at the camp site we greeted by a number of rats that were probably attracted by the smell of food. These were most likely Red Spiny Maxomys (Maxomys surifer) judging by their size and fur color. They were quite shy though and difficult to photograph.

Thung Chang Protected Area - Indomalayan Niviventer
Indomalayan Niviventer


In the morning I woke up to the loudest and most diverse bird chorus I have ever heard. It seemed like a different bird was calling from every tree branch around us. But as many of them as there were, finding and especially photographing them in the thick canopy of the tropical jungle was very challenging.  Unfortunately, I have absolutely no ear for bird calls and the only way for me to identify a species is to see it.

The ones I did spot were: Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), White-browed Scimitar-babbler (Pomatorhinus schisticeps),Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma), Common Goldenback Woodpecker (Dinopium javanense), Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier), the ever-present Sooty-headed (Pycnonotus aurigaster) and Streak-eared Bulbuls (Pycnonotus blanfordi), a small flycatcher and an Oriental Scops  Owl (Otus sunia) with young.

A few kilometers from our camping site there was a small lake where we saw a Great Egret (Ardea alba) and some Lesser  Treeducks (Dendrocygna javanica).

Thung Chang Protected Area - Roosting owl
Roosting owl


All of the reptiles we saw in the area were nocturnal. The track along the stream produced three individuals:  Streamside Skink (Sphenomorphus maculatus), Indian Forest Skink (Sphenomorphus indicus) and a much larger Many-lined Sun Skink (Eutropis multifasciata). Later at the camp site I spotted a juvenile Siamese Leaf-towed Gecko (Dixonius siamensis).

Thung Chang Protected Area - Stream-side skink
Stream-side skink


While the insects were not a major objective of our little expedition, I did spot some interesting creatures that deserve a mention. Definitely one of the most amazing camouflage specialists I have ever seen is the Indian Leaf Butterfly (Kallima inachus). With its wings closed it looks EXACTLY like a dry leaf. But once it opens its wings  – there is a splash of color in the dark forest. 

Other interesting insects included: Pond Wolf Spider (Pardosa pseudoannulata), Green Lanternfly (Pyrops candelarius), Intermediate Imperial Cicada (Megapomponia intermedia) and Common Green Broadwing.

Perfectly camouflaged Leaf butterfly with its wings closed
Perfectly camouflaged Leaf butterfly with its wings closed
Leaf butterfly with its wings open
Leaf butterfly with its wings open
Thung Chang Protected Area - Green lantern fly
Green lantern fly
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