Home News News The Faces Behind Conservation – Celebrate World Wildlife Day  

The Faces Behind Conservation – Celebrate World Wildlife Day  

This World Wildlife Day, we acknowledge the essential role that communities on the ground play in protecting and maintaining our fragile ecosystem.   

Today, it has never been more important, as experts believe we’re already in a sixth mass extinction. As one species becomes extinct, many other species are affected, putting numerous ecosystems in danger of collapsing through a waterfall effect.  

DSWF’s comprehensive approach to conservation puts people at the heart of our work; through this method, we can ensure conservation success and long-term environmental sustainability.  

Our team’s visit to SE Asia in January enabled them to see firsthand the vital importance of indigenous people and communities in the fight to protect the world’s most endangered wildlife, such as tigers, elephants, and pangolins.   

While visiting our project partners in Thailand, the team witnessed the importance of community outreach and alternative livelihood programmes. Below are just some of the ‘faces behind conservation’:   

Ms. Sai – Mushroom Farmer (Community Member) 

Allow us to introduce Ms. Sai, a mushroom farmer and savvy businesswoman. She created her mushroom business with the help of our project partner’s livelihood programme, which gave her the skills and independence to farm mushrooms. She lives on her own, in a beautiful small house just a field away from Khao Yai National Park, and frequently has wild elephants visit the property, attracted to irrigation ponds which tempt them out of the park.  

Her impressive mushroom farm is 10 meters long with six 4-meter rows, which house walls (see photo for reference) of millions of mushrooms. This clever system enables her to farm all year round and produce three growths a year, of which she is successful in selling at local markets and even through her own Facebook page. Ms Sai is a well-known name in the community, and her story is a persuasive one for many women looking for empowerment and independence. 

Before harnessing these skills and monopolising her trade, her family were poachers! In fact, 25 years ago, the whole village (bordering the Khao Yai National Park) were known to be poachers, but now, there are zero ‘known’ poaching families recorded in the community. This fantastic achievement came down to our project partners’ dedicated Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai region outreach team.   

By facilitating and encouraging community members to adopt alternative livelihoods to poaching, we can maintain a sustainable and prosperous future for wildlife and native communities. 

Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai region team 

Sayan – Head of Outreach and Field researcher (far left) 

Sayan is a long-standing member of our project partner, Freeland, and has recently reached an impressive 20-year milestone. Previously, he worked as a ranger in Khao Yai National Park, along with his parents!   

He is a vital member of the team because, in recent years, they have unfortunately been short staffed, and as a result, he is doing more tiger surveys than outreach. However, this suits Sayan, as he loves trekking in the forest and conducting camera trap surveys. He is currently leading tiger and wildlife surveys in Eastern Thailand, and whilst the DSWF team was on site, they witnessed his skills, covering over 20k in just 6 hours! 

Waraporn (Jip) – Outreach and Training Coordinator (second from left) 

Waraporn is another impressive team member, harnessing knowledge from 18 years’ experience with Freeland. Her primary responsibility is organising school outreach visits with the appropriate schools in the region. This is a vital job to ensure the team communicates and inspires children, who may be most at risk of wildlife conflict and influence in their community if poaching is high in the community. 

She also arranges and conducts local administration during ranger training courses and other events, such as the snare meeting, which the DSWF team was fortunate to attend (read more in our previous blog, ‘Boots on the ground’). 

Wongsathit (Em) – Lead Researcher (second from right) 

Wongsathit has been with Freeland for the shortest time (6 years) but has invaluable experience under his belt, working for the DNP (Department of National Parks) in their research department at several research stations. His last DNP job was research officer at Khao Laem National Park, a vital forest system in the Dawna-Tenasserim Hills area of western Thailand, and an extension of another vital forest system in the Dawna-Tenasserim Hills area of western Thailand. Due to budget cuts, he was made redundant by the DNP and our project partners snapped him up! He currently leads tiger and wildlife surveys in north, west, and Southern Thailand. 

Aphirak (Art) – Community Outreach Leader (far right) 

Last but not least, this is Aphirak, who spearheads the community outreach team. He joined Freeland about ten years ago as a project agronomist, as he is an expert in mushrooms and organic farming. Hence, the decision was made to harness Aphirak’s unique skills and train reformed poachers, such as Ms Sai, to establish their own mushroom farms through the livelihood programme.   

But then Human-Elephant-Conflict (HEC) started to increase in the community where he was based, because of the increase in agriculture and encroachment into the National Park. Aphirak has now become one of Thailand’s experts on how to peacefully solve HEC by moving elephants. He is regularly called by the DNP for advice and meets many local and provincial govt officials to advise them about HEC mitigation all over Thailand.   

DSWF has always believed in community engagement and that participation from all stakeholders is fundamental in ensuring a sustainable future for both people and wildlife. We hope you have enjoyed reading about the unsung heroes in Thailand, whom our DSWF team was able to meet. 

This World Wildlife Day, you could make a HUGE impact with a small donation and help these wildlife warriors continue their fight to protect endangered species across Thailand. Changing attitudes within communities can lead to long-term conservation success and instil positive relationships with future generations.

Support Wildlife Warriors

A small donation can make a huge impact to wildlife conservation. Your funds help to educate communities on the importance of conserving their local wildlife.

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