Sightings of leopards and panthers in Kaeng Krachan National Park indicate population growth

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Tourists visiting Kaeng Krachan National Park have recently reported sightings of leopards and panthers along the road to Panoenthung, suggesting an increase in their population, officials said.

On June 24, Mr. Mongkol Chaiyaphakdee, Head of Kaeng Krachan National Park, Phetchaburi Province, confirmed that tourists had photographed two black panthers on June 19.

The leopards were spotted in the area near to Ban Krang campsite, about 1.5 hours from Hua Hin.

Another sighting occurred on June 21, when a tourist captured an image of a black panther in the car park area on route to the campsite.

Amy, a tourist, managed to photograph the elusive animals as they walked calmly by the road before disappearing back into the forest. This is the third sighting of black leopards in the park this year, with previous sightings reported in January and February.

Additionally, leopards were spotted in a similar area on the same day, both in the morning and evening. The animals were seen walking along the roadside without displaying any fear of vehicles before returning to the forest.

Encountering a black leopard is considered a rare and lucky experience, Mr. Mongkol said.

These animals are generally not dangerous to humans and tend to avoid people. He advised that if tourists see a leopard or black leopard, they should remain in their vehicles, avoid making loud noises, and wait for the animal to move away on its own.

Mr. Mongkol noted that the Ban Krang Ranger Station area is frequently visited by leopards and black panthers, and their numbers seem to be increasing. He speculated that there might be more offspring this year, making the animals more visible to tourists. Kaeng Krachan National Park is working with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Thailand and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Thailand to conduct research on tigers and their prey within the park. The recent photographs provide important evidence for this research.

“Leopards and black panthers are the same species, with the primary difference being fur color,” explained Mr. Mongkol.

“Leopards have brownish-yellow fur with black rosettes, while black panthers are melanistic, having all-black fur due to a pigment anomaly, though their rosettes are still visible under sunlight. Both are close to being endangered and are listed as protected wildlife in Thailand under the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act, B.E. 2019. Hunting or possessing them is prohibited, with violators facing up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to 1 million baht, or both.”

The population of leopards and black panthers in Thailand has decreased rapidly, with an estimated 150 individuals remaining. The primary threats to their survival are habitat loss and poaching. Conservation efforts require cooperation from all sectors to maintain ecological balance and biodiversity.

The increase in sightings of these elusive animals is a positive sign, indicating potential growth in their population within the national park.

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