Friday, June 29, 2012

On the Dhole

I spent yesterday afternoon with my friend Nang in the extreme north east corner of Khao Yai National Park.  Nang is a bird guide (link here) who lives close to Khao Yai, and  for a number of years I've been meaning to get her to take me to look for Gaur in the National Park. Whilst she occasionally sees Gaur in the parts of the park most visited by tourists, the areas she took me to are more regular stake outs.

The first place we went to was National Park sub-Station 4, where one of the National Park staff accompanied us to a watchtower overlooking a couple of salt licks.  He told us that the Guar come out of the forest in the last hour or so of daylight to feed and make use of the salt lick. However, soon after we got up into the watchtower our chances of seeing any Gaur where rapidly diminished by this lot turning up...

This group of five Dhole (also known as Asian Wild Dog) mooched about in the clearing, and one of them proceeded to use the salt lick as a giant litter tray!  Larger groups of Dhole are known to hunt Gaur, and we were told that with so much Dhole scent in the air it was highly unlikely that we'd get any Gaur.  I don't visit Khao Yai all that often, but I have seen Dhole on at least two previous occasions, so I think that the National Park must have quite a healthy population.

We were advised to try National Park sub-Station 2 as a another possible site for Gaur, and on arrival there just after dark we were told that there had been a Gaur seen on the previous couple of evenings.  One of the National Park staff here was kind enough to take us back along the road, and sure enough a few minutes later we were watching a heavily pregnant female Gaur standing just a few feet away!

This is actually a bit of a cheat, and not really how I was expecting to see my first Gaur.  It transpires that this female was rescued as a calf when her mother was killed by poachers.  She was hand-reared by the National Park staff and was released into the wild when she was old enough to fend for herself.  She disappears into the forest for long periods of time, but has been seen in the company of male Gaur close to the sub-Station.  Each time she has been heavily pregnant with a calf she has reappeared at the sub-Station, seemingly because it gives her some "sense of security" and has given birth each time in the vicinity of the sub-Station, then when the calf is strong enough they wonder back into the forest. She even has a name, "Malee", but the fact that this is also my mother-in-law's name is a complete coincidence.

I'll have to make another trip to this part of Khao Yai sometime soon to see some truly "wild" Gaur, as I'd ideally like to see some of the massive males that live in the National Park.  The animal that is thought to have sired Malee's latest calf is estimated to weigh a 1,500 kgs!

1 comment:

Jose R Castello said...

Use of Photo for Field Guide

Dear David,

I am currently developing an Encyclopedia (Field Guide) of Antelopes, Cattle and Goats: Bovids of the World.

I may send you a private link to the project if you wish.

I would like to use your photo of the South East Asian Gaur (Bos gaurus laosiensis, female) at:

Please, let me know if this is OK.The author of the photo will be credited.

Best regards,
Dr Jose R Castello