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Thailand, Khao Sok National Park : 
In Search Of The Binturong
Episode 209

This time my explorations took me to Khao Sok National Park in exotic Thailand! I was lucky
enough to happen upon a pair of rare Asian elephants. These large animals have been known
to spend up to 20 hours a day foraging for food!

Unlike African elephants, Asian elephants have only one fingerlike projection in their 
trunk. African elephants also have larger ears.
Asian elephants are treasured more than anything else in Thailand and can live up to 50
years.

Forty years ago, 70% of Thailand was rainforest. Today, less than 18% is left, mainly due 
to the timber industry. The animals most affected by this change in habitat are Asian 
elephants. Ironically, Asian elephants are used to pull down and haul the trees. Less then
1,500 still exist in the wild.


Yikes! As I was moving through the rain forest I happened upon a reticulated python! This
python was not big enough to do me any harm; however, he did wrap himself around my 
midsection tightly. Remember: Do not go near snakes in the wild!

These pythons can grow 35 feet in length, which makes them the longest in the world. A 
fully grown python could take down a human man. The reticulated python gets it's name
from the broken chain of color down its body.

Much of Southern Thailand is dominated by odd rock formations called karsts. Karsts are
made of limestone, which means that the area was once under water. Limestone is made of
dead sea animals packed together under enormous pressure.

After the close encounter with the python, I was happy to move on to a much more delicate
and fuzzy creature -- the slow loris. Loris is Dutch for "clown." Although the slow
Loris does not move fast, when it comes time for eating, it has a lightning-fast grip
on it's prey.

Slow Loris' huge eyes mean they are mostly nocturnal. These animals are arboreal, which
means they live in trees. These fuzzy animals have a special claw, called the "toilet
claw," that they use to groom themselves.

Like the slow loris, our feature creature, the binturong, lives in trees. However, the
binturong is diurnal.


Khao Sok has lots of bio-diversity, or many different species of animals living there. One
of the most rare and secretive cats, the fishing cat, was looking for its favorite meal, 
fish, at a stream. I was lucky enough to watch this wonderful creature in action.

Fishing cats can actually spot fish under water. They wait and calculate which fish is 
closest to them before diving into the water after them! They catch fish with their webbed
feet, quickly moving fish into their mouths. A rare and amazing creature, the fishing cat.

I was amazed to come upon a fishing cat demonstrating how it earned its name! Another
amazing thing about the rainforest is the amount of life sustaining material it provides --
like "drinking liana" vines that, when cut, provide drinkable, safe water. Helpful when 
you forget your canteen!


After seeing so many wonderful animals in one day, I decided to make camp for the night.

The next morning I was feeling quite famished. I came upon a durian fruit tree. Unlike 
our feature creature, the binturong, this fruit does not smell like popcorn. In fact, 
durian fruit smells so awful it's actually illegal in some parts of Thailand to eat and 
clean it in public! The smell actually attracts animals, who eat the fruit and then
spit out the pits, allowing the durian trees to spread throughout the rain forest.

I worked open the durian fruit to sample the goods. It smelled really horrible, but tasted
buttery and creamy. Great-tasting, terrible-smelling.

After the horrid, pungent odor of the durian fruit I was glad to move on to sniff for the
pocornlike musk odor of the binturong. In fact, just as I was putting down the durian,
one fell from the trees by way of a binturong!

These animals are nicknamed "bear cats." Bear for their thick fur and cats for the nimble 
way they move throughout the trees. Binturongs also spend most of their lives in the
treetops, but they occasionally come down to eat carrion and even fish!

The binturongs do smell quite good. The musk they produce from under their tails is how
they communicate with one another.


Until next time,
Totally wild,
Jeff

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