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***** Environmental Issues in Phang Nga & Southern Marine National Parks

***** John Gray (Sea Canoe)

OPENING I have just been on a research trip to Mu Ko Phedra and Tarutao NationalParks. Li Pae is an absolute disaster, totally overdeveloped, insufficient water, no sewage system, no solid waste disposal system, becoming a real health hazard. I looked at the lack of control and regulations (anarchic tourism!) and immediately thought of the cholera outbreak on Tarawa (Kiribati) in 1977. Of the original 40 Urok Lawoi land titles, only 6 still remain in sea gypsy hands. Stopped off at Phang Nga sea gypsy village and was disturbed by the trade in wildlife - dusky langurs and several white-handed gibbons, plus a variety of avifauna. All illegal but the Parks people with us just ignored the evidence in front of them, and having been asked by one lady if I wanted to buy a gibbon I was not prepared to accept the ranger's explanation that the primate was "just her pet.“ Report from a PhD, Travel Management specializing in SE Asia Ecotourism

CAVEMAN’S CREDENTIALS • This brief is written after sea kayaking over 18 years in Southern Marine Parks, while interacting with local cultures in and around the Parks. • Both the welfare of local people and conservation of NP assets (including wildlife) are considered. • Economic options that improve prosperity and minimize adversity are explored.


Wildlife Rehabbing in 50’s Kayaking 1955 SCUBA 1957 Lifeguard 1960 Honolulu Ocean Lifesaver 1977 (High Surf Rescue)

MASTER PLANNING • O’ahu North Shore “Keep The Country COUNTRY! – 1977 - present • Coastal Resources Committee, Hawai’I Marine Master Plan 1985-89 • Ecotourism and Spatial Master Planning Consultant – 1995-present

VIDEO • Moloka’i’s Forgotten Frontier - Emmy and Teddy Award – 1985 • “Inside Hawai’i” Travel Channel Series 1988-9 • Over 250 TV Appearances promoting Thailand since 1991

ECOTOURISM PIONEER • “Natural History By Sea Kayak Since 1983” (Word “Ecotourism” coined in 1990)

ACADEMIC Hawai’i • UH Journalism Lecturer and Intern Program (1978) • National Cancer Institute Pacific Basin Communications Director Thailand • Lecturer, Ecotourism, Marketing, Management at several Universities


BOXING DAY TSUNAMI • Felt earthquake and predicted Tsunami before ground stopped shaking.



ELIMINATE POACHING Zero enforcement encourages poaching • a bottle of Mekong buys off a ranger

TARUTAO EXAMPLE • On a 2001 video shoot in Klong Son, Tarutao, I wanted to shoot from kayaks, not with the park longtail, whom I did not trust. We were over-ruled and (using the longtail) we found the usual eight pythons in one klong (usual). The first pythons we saw after that was 2006.

RANONG EXAMPLE • At the mangrove park in Ranong, we have never seen an animal except crabs. The Park manager has no enforcement staff and the locals poach at will

Ranong Mangrove Park

ANIMALS “We” lost three 3-meter 10-year old monitors in one day – for a bottle of Mekong.

Snakes • Snakes – Reticulating python popular for photo hawkers, international trade, skins and meat. Many bird, reptile, mammal species found in Patong after dark, but not in Phang Nga Bay.

Solution • Unpredictable, irregular patrols establish a presence. • Rangers cannot be friends w/ poachers. • Patong information sweep with wildlife law multi-lingual flyers. • Target Patong police, business owners. • Use school kids.

PLANTS • Exotic plants are poached in open view of tourists and sold to hotels and nurseries.

Solution • Enforce the law with regular, serious patrols. • Educate hotels/nurseries to buy licensed plants only. (Benefits nurseries.) • Enlist Skal Club so hotels buy only from nurseries.

ILLEGAL LOGGING • Large trees felled within hearing distance of park rangers. • Felling and cutting a large tree with chainsaws requires 2-3 days of noise that carries several kilometers. Logs must be removed by boat.

Solution • Unpredictable boat patrols establish a presence and reduce poaching. • License boats in the Park. New boats most show lumber certification.

MONKEY FEEDING • Rampant on sea canoe/ and Phi-Phi speedboat trips. • Poorly paid child labor guides need tips, so they feed the monkeys for their guests. Guides currently come from village labor pool, paid direct, no taxes of social security. No training or job skills, most cannot even swim. Many under school age.

Educating Travel Agents

Solution • License guides for First Aid/CPR, swimming, environmental conduct. • Instead of renting out the NP canoes to private operators, an environmental conduct officer should paddle in the Hongs during sea canoeing times.

SEA KAYAKING ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT • Sea kayaking should be a low volume, non-impact environmental industry run by sincere environmentalists. Unfortunately, travel agents, speedboat operators and other opportunists with no concern for the environment highjacked the industry and turned Phang Nga Bay sea kayaking into “City Bus Tours Operating in Nature.” • There are only two real sea kayaking companies in South Thailand. Both are American run by lifelong kayakers and environmentalists. We both encourage Thai-owned and operated environmental sea kayaking companies, but local owners are not interested.

MANGROVES • Heavy traffic with untrained guides run over mangroves, seriously depleting them. • Mangrove planting in hongs will increase awareness of both tourists and guides.

Brugeria species with pneumataphores at serious risk.

NOISY IN HONGS • Many companies just go out to play – an extension of Patong. When I asked the Farang Owner of a company why he was in my industry, he actually told me “we just go to your spots to have a good party.”

CAVE DAMAGE • East Asians, especially Chinese, like to break stalactites for souvenirs – educate staff, pay them better so they don’t “work the tip”, paddle rangers patrol the caves.

Still Perfect After 16 years

SeaCanoeing Solutions • • • • • • • • • •

Basic credentialing of all sea canoeing & speedboat guides. All guides should swim at least 100 meters First Aid/CPR Basic lifeguard skills Environmental Training and Code of Conduct Would be nice if Managing Directors, General Managers and Operations managers are credentialed in Environmental conduct Also all TAT staff – they encourage feeding monkeys because it is “good for business” Hospitals and clinics legally required to report all monkey bites. They are regular and common, a safety issue swept under the rug (Although not a NP, the monkey problem in Talin, Krabi, is massive.)

MARINE RUBBISH • 50-50% tourist/local, no pelagic. • Plastic bags and Styrofoam form 80%. • Huge rubbish slick east of Phuket harbor - minimum 2 sq K, and thick. • Phuket Adventures is among the worst polluters. Also operates speedboats. How can a company operate sea kayaking and speedboats at the same time? Real sea kayakers hate speedboats because they are so unenvironmental. • • • • •


Solutions • Educate boat owners/operators to Marine Rubbish problem. • Educate SeaCanoe teams to marine rubbish • Inspect shrimp farms to understand why so much Styrofoam breaks free. Develop system (contoured nets) to reduce free floating Styrofoam. • Net drag the rubbish slick east of Phuket harbor. Created primarily by speedboat traffic, the slick contains tons of rubbish. Khunying Barbara was shocked when we motored through this rubbish, and will surely support the effort.

BOATS • Boat traffic is heavy in Phang Nga Bay many are poorly maintained, create high emissions. Major problems are 2-cycle outboards and longtails w/o mufflers Inc National Park staff.

2-CYCLE SPEEDBOATS • 2-CYCLE SPEEDBOATS are environmentally devastating • Marine Parks can painlessly lead switch to 4-cycle with a five year attrition campaign • Double import duties double on 2-cycle, eliminate duties on 4-cycle

Solution • Follow California 2-cycle law • Educate speedboat owners to 2-cycle environmental impact and economic benefits of 4-cycle • Five year attrition campaign • Import duties double on 2-cycle, eliminated on 4-cycle • Follow California 2-cycle law

LONGTAILS HAVE NO MUFFLERS • Tourist • Fishing • National Park • Many complaints from tourists

Solution • Require mufflers on all longtails • Educate boat owners that engines are designed for mufflers and work more efficiently with them. In fact, engines come equipped with mufflers and boatmen remove them personally • Noisy longtails upset tourists and degrade Thailand’s image • “Quiet” is the natural ambiance of nature and this is a national park • Boat operators are at risk of impaired hearing. • Noisy longtails are a cultural thing, tough to change but necessary

CAPACITY BUILDING • To Late To Create Volume Limits without Creating Economic hardship. • Nothing can be done but ask for good conduct, professional standards. • Caves are small with obviously limited carrying capacity. They were my “perfect” example of the need for limited volume.

Solution • Limit volume of each company to 100/guests/day • Use professional standards to weed out unprofessional operators • Downside: Heavy impact on Incentives

GENERIC SOLUTIONS • As populations and tourism arrivals grow, the purpose of National Parks – and the impacts upon them – will increase. National Parks are best served by a “low volume, high quality” mentality, but Thailand’s Arrival Counts will explode in the next two decades, led by a stunning increase in low-budget Asian group tours with no environmental awareness and the worst practices in nature.

SOLUTIONS • Driven by “low budget’ operators with no environmental interests or awareness who capitalize on serving this market by increasing volume and cutting costs as much as possible, Thailand’s National Parks will be overwhelmed and destroyed unless a stronger conservation commitment and presence is developed – a decade ago.

Form a “Friends of the Park” • Local users are generally the offenders but we can educate on “environmental”, enlist into enforcement and develop sustainable economic programs. • Include Prince of Songkla-Phuket student body – they care.

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS • Enlist SKAL Club of Phuket, PhuketPhang Nga-Krabi Tourist Assns. into environmental activities, including but not limited to Park issues. Enlist Arnfinn Oines, Evason resorts environmental director, into this project. Green Globe winner Evason sets the environmental example for Thailand hotels.

SCHOOL PROGRAMS • Start elementary school field trip programs to educate students from year one to the purpose and proper use of National Parks. • Grade 1-5 are day trips. • Grades 6-8 are overnight trips – always include environmental field project.

Inspire The Students • Introduce classroom Natural History curriculum based upon the nearest National Park. Develop parks as “learning assets” for local people so they see the value of a Park. Use “Wildlife Rehabilitation Center” as an official learning tool w on-staff nature educators. • All students within one hour drive should spend one school day/year at the center. • Develop wildlife rehabbing programs run through local schools.

ENFORCEMENT • Park rangers must do their jobs. Get out in boats, patrol the “Hongs’ and coastlines, confiscate illegal wildlife, and if necessary, make arrests. • A “Foot Cop on the Beat” mentality works best – be friend and educator to the 98% of good people, and tough on the 2% bad guys. • Enforcement officers should be rotated, stationed at one NP but patrolling other Parks so they aren’t “busting the neighbors”.

Enforcement in Puerto Princesa

Enforcement is Important • Park Enforcement officers should be the status position, earned by hard work and commitment. The greater the pay, the less they will poach themselves. Environmental education, often by famous celebrities here to shoot documentaries, helps develop the enforcement commitment.

SOLUTIONS • Park rangers in National Park kayaks in the Hongs, Talin, “monkey beach” • Hong maintenance – protect mangroves, stalactites • Multi-lingual language signage on conduct • Multi-lingual signage about wildlife


EDUCATION/PUBLIC AWARENESS • At the start, effective enforcement will have stronger impact than education, but within a decade positive public awareness will effectively protect the parks. • A widespread public attitude towards park conservation is “quiet enforcement” that works 24/7, 365 days a year.

Education Awareness

Education Awareness • Free government resources already exist, i.e. public schools and TOT channels • National Parks can lobby the DOE for more natural sciences in their curriculum • Emphasize field trips to National Parks and Wildlife Rehab Centers • Place wildlife rehab centers in schools

Environmental Festivals

Public Information Campaigns • TOT can develop PIO campaigns targeting children, teens and adults. • Enlist Caribao as spokesman – have him take documentary trips where he writes and plays new music. • Have National Park show that plays in drive time and at mid-day for schools.

Print Media • Print campaign strong already – many Thai language magazines frequently highlight NP stories and photo essays. • This can always be reinforced with reprints distributed to adjacent schools and political leaders, etc.

Scholarships • Hold scholarship contests and sponsor scholarships in natural sciences, even one scholarship/province increases awareness.

National Parks -TAT • Work closely with TAT on educating their staff & marketing reps. • Their idea of conservation is pack as many tourists in as you can and feed the monkeys. • TAT must recognize National Parks concept.

IN-FLIGHT VIDEOS • In-flight videos on all arriving flights highlighting the grandeur of Thailand’s National Parks, encouraging tourists to visit them, but also offering guidelines on low-impact environmental conduct.


WILDLIFE RESTAURANTS • Bust all wildlife restaurants. Just look for where Chinese and Korean group tours hang out. • Phuket has at least two Shark Fin Soup restaurants – unbelievable in the 21st Century!

ELEPHANT RIDE PLAN • Include an Elephant Tax of B50 on each arriving passenger built into the airfare. • In return, they get a coupon for a 15 minute elephant ride at National Park qualified operations. • This encourages: • proper treatment of elephants, or mahouts cannot participate. • improves elephant awareness. • coupons not cashed in on elephant rides can support NP conservation efforts.

COLLECT YOUR RENT • Better park fee collections • 6,500,000 Phuket arrivals/yr • National Parks website says 39,000 visitors pay Phang Nga entry fee/yr • Reprint Phang Nga Park handbook

Puerto Princesa Model • Attend Puerto Princesa “Festival of the Forest” (tree planting, late June) and “Love Affair With Nature” (mangrove planting, Valentine’s Day)

RECAP These issues and solutions are meaningless unless we:

• Gain the hearts of Thai people to be proud of Thailand’s superb National Parks as National Treasures and as a financial asset. • Thai’s must understand the difference in a “Park” and a “National Park”. The current attitude is that a Park is where you go to party and have fun, not learn about and protect Nature. • Sincere but friendly enforcement is essential. If National Parks doesn’t respect your assets, nothing will encourage surrounding communities to share in your respect.

FOLLOW THE LAW • All National Park operators pay their real taxes and follow human resources laws. (Requires cooperation of revenue department.) Only one company does, and we have never made a profit. • Maybe this will reduce volume.

HONG YAI UNDER THREAT Thailand’s Most Beautiful Spot?


Environmental Issue and Tourism in Phang Nga  

Presentation by John Gray, Caveman-Sea Canoe