Kuman killed them all. You name it, tigers, wild boars, gibbons, or elephants. While he was hunting in Khao Yai, he would also carve out selected parts of aloe wood trees – valuable aromatic resin wood used to make perfume and incense. The animals and aloe wood Kuman took from the park are protected species, but that didn’t deter him. His story is an environmentalist’s nightmare, and he was not alone.
Thousands of villagers like Kuman, in more than a hundred communities around Khao Yai, are still hunting and poaching illegally in the park. Often enough, the reason is poverty. As a poacher, Kuman could make a month’s salary in a single day if he caught a tiger, or earn easy money selling aloe wood.
The terrible impact of poaching on Khao Yai’s biodiversity has quickly become apparent. Few tigers survive in the park and other species are already extinct, such as Schomburgk’s Deer – Khao Yai’s emblem. The dwindling number of animals has forced poachers to cut more and more aloe wood from the park. Distilling factories have sprung up around Khao Yai to process the wood into oil, destined for the Middle East and other parts of the world. If nothing is done, it’s estimated that there might not be an aloe wood tree left in the forest within a decade.
FREELAND‘s approach to protecting Khao Yai doesn’t ignore the human side to this story. While supporting rangers in their patrolling work, FREELAND’s Community Outreach Team is helping villagers develop a more sustainable relationship with the forest.
With this support, Kuman is now heading up an organic communal farm in his village, instead of a poaching gang. Producing fish, mushrooms and other vegetables for sale at local markets, the farm is self-reliant and profitable. It supports 17 families who would have otherwise relied on poaching. Kuman not only halted his village’s reliance on poaching, but has become a trainer in sustainable farming and speaker against poaching.