ASEAN environment ministers declare two new heritage parks
Vientiane, Lao PDR—Two new protected areas in Thailand, Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary-Nam Nao National Park and the Phu Kradueng National Park, were officially declared as the 56th and 57th ASEAN Heritage Parks during the 17th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment (AMME) on 23 August 2023.
One of ASEAN’s flagship initiatives, the ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHP) Programme was designed to build a network of protected areas that best represent the region’s shared natural heritage. The now 57 AHPs in the region were given the distinction due to their ecological and biological richness and effective protected area management.
“We congratulate Thailand for this recent recognition by the ASEAN Ministers of the Environment bestowed on two of their protected areas. To be recognised as an AHP, a protected area must first undergo a stringent process to ensure that it meets the criteria of ecological completeness, naturalness, high conservation importance, ecosystems that best represent ASEAN, a legally gazetted conservation area, and species that are unique to the region. The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) facilitates support for this network of outstanding protected areas through various projects and initiatives, which will ensure that these AHPs continue to be effectively managed for the benefit of the ASEAN community. Well-managed AHPs provide a variety of ecosystem services, such as food, water, livelihoods, a sustainable supply of biodiversity-based raw materials for MSMEs, and their role as major carbon stocks and nature-based solutions against climate change impacts and natural disasters,” said Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, executive director of the ACB, secretariat of the AHP Programme.
Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary-Nam Nao National Park
With nearly a hundred per cent forested area located in Thailand’s northeast region, Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary-Nam Nao National Park is home to numerous endemic and rare plant and animal species. Some of its endemic species include Siamese montien (Torenia siamensis) and Sukhakun lady-slippers orchid (Paphiopedilum sukhakulii). It also cradles some endangered species such as the Big-headed turtle (Platisternon megacephalum), Hog deer (Axis porcinus), and White-winged wood duck (formerly Cairina scutulata now reclassified as Asacornis scutulata).
Due to its biological and ecological diversity, the park is not only regarded as a “nature study site” but is also a great place to visit for camping, forest bathing, and bird watching.
Phu Kradueng National Park
A glimpse of Phu Kradueng National Park’s flora and fauna. Photo by Phu Kradueng National Park
The Phu Kradueng National Park in Loei Province of central north Thailand is a unique-looking national park with a table-like design. It has a sizable sandstone peak with a broad plateau at its summit that spans an area of around 60 square kilometres. The park mainly consists of plant communities of hill evergreen forest, dry evergreen forest, pine forest, mixed deciduous forest, deciduous dipterocarp forest, naturally regenerating forest, plant communities on rock terraces, and grassland.
Phu Kradueng is a sanctuary of globally important species of plants and animals. Some of the rare plants found in the park include Ya dok lam phong (Photinia stenophylla), Phak Chi Phu Kradueng (Limnophila cephalantha), and White rhodedendron (Rhododendron lyi). It is also home to some critically endangered species, such as Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and Elongated tortoise (Indotestudo elongata); and five endangered species, namely, Phayre’s langur (Presbytis phayrei), White-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar), Dhole (Cuon alpinus), Elephant (Elephas maximus); and Big-headed turtle (Platysternon megacephalum).
Nature enthusiasts may visit Phu Kradueng and enjoy their ecotourism activities such as hiking, visiting waterfalls, or just basking in the beautiful view of its sunrise and sunset. The best time to visit the park is from October to May.
Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary-Nam Nao National Park and the Phu Kradueng National Park are the newest additions to the seven other AHPs in Thailand, namely, Khao Yai National Park, Tarutao National Park, Ao Phang-Nga – Mu Ko Surin – Mu Ko Similan National Park, Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex, Hat Chao Mai National Park-Mu Ko Libong Non-hunting Area, Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, and Khao Sok National Park.