Forsaken Fauna

Red, white, and blue are the colors of the Thai flag, and also of the endemic Rajini or Royal crab, which inhabits the streams and swamps of Kanchanaburi Province, where the Yadana pipeline is being constructed. First discovered in 1983 and named to honor Thailand’s Queen Sirikit, the rare crab has a blue-rimmed white shell and red legs. Although its habitat in the Huay Khayeng forest reserve has been clearly identified—the pipeline cuts right through it—there are no figures available on the crab’s population numbers.

The endangered Asian elephant is another powerful symbol of the Thai nation, one that becomes more tenuous as its habitat in Huay Khayeng disappears. Although the government puts the nationwide wild elephant population at fewer than 2,000, the Wildlife Fund Thailand claims the correct figure could be half that. Based on independent surveys, conservationists estimate that 50 to 60 Asian elephants survive in Huay Khayeng, making the forest’s inhabitants 3-6 percent of the national population. Although the species is protected by international treaty, its habitat is not, and pachyderm populations throughout Thailand are falling due to destruction of forest habitat.

The smallest known mammal in the world, Kitti’s hog-nosed bat weighs only two grams—and lives only in Kanchanaburi Province, where an unknown number inhabit the region’s limestone caves. The species is considered rare and highly sensitive to changes in its environment. The presence of the pipeline just outside at least one of these caves could disrupt the bats’ habitual feeding areas.