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Thungyai Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries

  • Stretching over more than 600,000 hectares along the Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi and Tak Provinces of Thailand, the two adjoining and combined Wild life Sanctuaries of Thung Yai Naresuan and Huay Kha Khaeng, which are relatively intact, contain examples of almost all the forest types of continental South-East Asia.
  • They are home to a very diverse array of animals, including 77% of the large mammals (especially elephants and tigers), 50% of the large birds and 33% of the land vertebrates to be found in this region.
  • Declared a World Heritage Site in 1991, The United Nations Committee inscribed the Thung Yai Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary as a natural property of outstanding universal value on the World Heritage List under criteria (ii), (iii), and (iv). 

The justification for inscription submitted by the Wildlife Conservation Division of the Royal Forest Department of Thailand in 1990, indicated for the following reasons,
it is unique in: 

1. Size
  • Thung Yai Huai Kha Khaeng is the largest area of legally protected forest in mainland South East Asia today, and is the core of a conservation area covering over 12,000 square kilometers.  It is thus the best area in the region for ensuring the long-term survival of habitats and species.
  • It is one of few protected area in the region large enough, and sufficiently undisturbed, to support truly natural communities containing populations of large herbivores and predator species within this dry tropical ecosystems.
2. Diversity and Integrity of habitats
  • Thung Yai - Huai Kha Khaeng incorporates near pristine examples of almost all the principal inland forest formations of continental South - East Asia, and one ( the savanna forest of Thung Yai ) which may be unique.
  • It includes significant variations in topography, altitude, rainfall, soil types and aquatic environments which have created a mosaic of many habitats and an ecosystem that is both intricate and fragile. 
  • It constitutes the most complete and most secure example of South  - East - Asia's dry tropical forest ecosystem - an ecosystem that is more critically endangered than the region's equatorial rain forest. 
  • It incorporates two intact river systems whose watersheds are largely encompassed by its boundaries.  It is rare in Asia today to find rivers with both banks well protected. It is especially rare to find accessible lowland rivers with their riparian forest still intact. Most have been logged and settled, or dammed.
3. Diversity of Flora and Fauna
  • Species diversity in Thung Yai - Huai Kha Khaeng is exceptionally high because, in addition to its high habitat diversity, the sanctuary occupies a unique position at the junction of the four biogeographic zones of mainland South-East Asia.  Many species reach the north, south, east or western limit of their range within its boundaries and do not occur together in any other area. It also includes many endemic species not known to occur outside west Thailand or the Dawna-Tenasserim highlands.
  • The sanctuary supports at least a third of all terrestrial vertebrates know for mainland South East Asia, almost two thirds of the region's large mammals and many of its large birds, including rare riparian and wetland species.  Altogether, 28 species are internationally threatened species; fifteen mammals, nine birds and four reptiles. 
  • It supports the wide forms of many domestic plants and animals and may, in future, provide the genetic stock for hardier breeds. Wild species are usually better adapted to environmental stresses and extremes.
4. Scientific Value
  • Thung Yai Huai Kha Khaeng is a key area for clarifying taxonomic relationships because the ranges of many parapatric species and sub-species overlap in the sanctuary. Cases to date include Rhesus and Crab eating Macaques, Wreathed and Plain-pouched Hornbills. Future cases may well include murids, squirrels and bulbuls.
  • The sanctuary incorporates the only two rivers in the Mae Klong basin which have not been modified in any way, so its aquatic and riparian communities are not only important for conservation and taxonomy, but also research into the ecological impact of large dams and commercial fishery projects. 
  • Because it survives in a primitive state and supports so many animal species, the sanctuary provides excellent, in some cases exclusive, opportunity to study ecological relationships within different communities and various aspects of forest dynamics, including the impact of fire.
For example;
  • (1) no other protected area in mainland South-East Asia supports all five of the region's macaques or the same three leaf-monkeys.
  • (2) no other protected area  is known to support the Gaur, Banteng and Wild Water Buffalo.
  • (3) Few areas in the region support as many carnivores, particularly felids and  viverrids; 
  • No where else in the world is known to support as many woodpeckers.
To sum up, this sanctuary is unique in size, complexity and diversity. Its distinction derives from its location and the disturbed nature of its habitats.