Thailand designates five new Ramsar sites

Thailand designates five new Ramsar sites

17 October 2001

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The Ramsar Bureau is pleased to announce that the Government of Thailand has designated five new Wetlands of International Importance, a diverse collection of wetland types spread across the extent of the country. Joining Thailand's previously sole Ramsar site, designated at the time of its accession to the Convention in 1998, these new sites bring a total of 131,547 additional hectares under the Ramsar umbrella, for a total of 132,041 ha in Thailand and 87,218,385 ha globally in 1101 Ramsar sites. All five new designations are effective 5 July 2001.

Bung Khong Long Non-Hunting Area (2,214 hectares, Nong Khai Province, 17°59’N 103°59’E) is one of the largest lakes in northeastern Thailand along the Lao frontier and supports nationally vulnerable and endangered fish and birds and is important for some 33 species of wintering migratory waterbirds. It also qualifies under both of the Ramsar fish criteria, supporting a number of endemic species and acting as a vital food source and spawning ground for the important subsistence fishing industry.

Don Hoi Lot (87,500 ha, Samut Songkhram Province, 13°21’N 099°59’E) represents a rare type of natural wetland for Thailand, comprising sandbars at the mouth of the Mae Klong river with a vast area of intertidal mudflats, an extremely productive location for the Hoi Lot (Solen regularis), an economically important mollusc unique to this region. Characterized by dynamic coastal features of the Bight of Bangkok in the Gulf of Thailand, formed from river and marine sediments extending some 8km from shoreline into the sea with less than a 1% slope. Mangroves are present along the shoreline on the east side. In addition to its 10 economically important mollusc species, the site is also important for tourism attracted to the natural environment, local identity, traditional fisheries and fishing technologies, seafoods and other fishery products. Development projects are perceived as a potential threat, and water pollution from upriver industries, urban and agricultural runoff present major problems, as do encroachment of mangroves for aquaculture and tourist infrastructure, to the extent that extinction of Solen regularis is feared without more effective management. A management plan has been approved by the National Environment Board but not yet budgeted for.

Krabi Estuary (21,299 ha, Krabi Province, 07°58’N 098°55’E) comprises an area of sand beach, mangroves, and mudflats, with some steep wooded cliffs and intertidal mudflats extending up to 2km offshore at low tide. A complex of rivers open to the sea within the site, and extensive seagrass beds are present at Sriboya Island. Some 221 bird species are found in the mangrove areas, and the mudflats form one of the most important areas in southern Thailand for migratory birds. Water quality has suffered from nearby community enlargement and the rapid growth of tourism from nearby Krabi city, and increased aquaculture may bring cause for concern. Most mangrove areas are presently forest concession but will convert to conservation purposes by the end of 2001.

Nong Bong Kai Non-Hunting Area (434 ha, Chiang Rai Province, 20°14’N 100°02’E) is a beautiful small lake (also known as Chiang Saen), surrounded by mountains and low hills, in the extreme north of the country adjacent to the Lao and Burmese frontiers, and is of major importance for both local and migratory birds, particularly waterbirds, including globally vulnerable species such as Baer’s Pochard (Aythya baeri); some 15 species nest in the site during October to March. Local communities are permitted to practice fishing and harvest lotus flowers and fruit within the non-hunting area, and orchards and tourist resorts in the surrounding area provide job opportunities; residential and resort development are beginning to impact wildlife, however. Birdwatching is actively pursued in the area.

Princess Sirindhorn Wildlife Sanctuary (Pru To Daeng Wildlife Sanctuary) (20,100 ha, Narathiwas Province, 06°12’N 101°57’E) is the largest remaining peat swamp forest in Thailand, situated in the extreme south, and supports a high diversity of flora and fauna, including 217 bird, 52 reptile, and 62 fish species, some of which are nationally vulnerable or endangered; 106 species of butterfly are supported, as well as 60 mammal species, including 13 species of bats. The site is a popular tourist destination, and surrounding communities depend upon direct and indirect use of the forest’s resources for low-intensity exploitation, such as fisheries and melaleuca harvesting for charcoal. Development in the 1980s, principally clearing for brief rice cultivation (followed in each case within two years by soil acidification) to the loss of two-thirds of the forest area, was curtailed by Sanctuary status in 1991. A management plan has been approved by the Royal Forest Department, and research and visitors’ facilities are in place.