Located east of Trang municipality, Klong Lumchan Waterfowl Sanctuary is a tiny swamp tucked away in a quiet corner of Route 4264 just off Highway 4, the main artery which connects Trang and Phatthalung provinces. Despite signs on the main road which point out its existence, few birders or even locals have any idea the site even exists. –And it’s not hard to see why.
Klong Lumchan is one of a dozen waterways which flow out from Khao Banthat Forest Reserve. This network of streams and canals water much of the province, allowing Trang’s agriculture to prosper.
In the case of Klong Lumchan, the canal drains into a swamp which in past times played home to a thriving collection of waterfowl and other aquatic life. Back then the lake was surrounded by marshes and bordered by peat swamp forest; beyond that were hundreds of acres of untouched lowland forest. All this habitat supported a healthy population of wildlife such as elephant, deer, tiger, bear, buffalo and tapir.
Between the 1960’s and 70’s the forests were cleared by locals and replaced by plantation. The forest creatures were hunted for food or collected as trophies to adorn living room walls. It didn’t help that during this time the government was too deeply involved with the Communist insurgency in the south that it had little time to deal with conservation issues in the region.
The area was declared a waterfowl sanctuary on November 24th, 1983. Shortly after its declaration, the wildlife sanctuary was expanded to include other small patches of forest within the region; however, like Klong Lumchan, most of these patches were just small islands of vegetation surrounded by oil and rubber plantation. The lone acre on which the staff houses and sanctuary office are built was donated to the government by a farmer who owned the rights to the property.
Since much of the land was already under cultivation by locals and villagers, the Department of National Parks (DNP) was left with no option but to only gazette the remaining patches of forest which had not yet been cleared. While motive may have been pure, the implementation of the project was not well-thought out, resulting in continued loss of habitat and rampant poaching by locals. The lack of manpower prevented the DNP from enforcing the rules or bringing offenders to justice. In time much of the forest which bordered plantation was quietly stripped away piece by piece until there was no forest left to speak of.
Klong Lumchan suffered as well. Fringe reedbeds were cleared to improve visibility for hunting and the remaining peat swamp situated outside the protected zone was drained and replaced by plantation.
Most recently, a dirt road has been cut which emerges from the sanctuary parking lot and follows the edge of the swamp, connecting a number of private plantations to the main road. This addition has further increased traffic through the area, disturbing the wildlife and granting easy access to fishermen and hunters operating in the area.
Anyone who visits Klong Lumchan today will surely walk away disappointed at what they see. It’s debatable whether or not conservation in these areas are worthy of future investment by the DNP, as most of the protected zones have already been cleared of their forests and the remaining patches are too small to support a sustainable population of wildlife.
After taking into consideration the history of deforestation and heavy hunting pressure, it is surprising to note that bird activity around Klong Lumchan is still fairly active. However, it is a far cry from what one would expect to find in a waterfowl conservation area.
The complete list of birds found in the area today would probably number no more than 120 species, although in the past I suspect it harbored some specialties. Local elders recall birds like White winged Duck and Black necked Stork, and I would not be surprised if Large Green Pigeon was also present as well.
Today, most of the birds found in the sanctuary are common species which inhabit forest edge or open country habitats; even these are in facing the threat of local extinction within the next decade or so due to hunting pressure.
Despite lacking fringe vegetation and reedbeds, the swamp still supports a number of waterbirds such as Purple Swamphen, Yellow Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Little Heron, Little Egret and Little Grebe. In the winter, Chinese Pond Heron is guaranteed and on occasion a Grey Heron will make an appearance. However, large birds tend to attract hunters, usually resulting in death for the poor creature.
Lesser Whistling Duck are sometimes seen on the lake although their numbers have reduced from hundreds to less than thirty individuals.
Kingfishers are still encountered at the swamp, with White throated Kingfisher being the most common. In the winter, Black capped and Common Kingfishers are frequently spotted on the fringes.
When in season, the various fig and fruiting trees attract a number of birds such as Green billed Malkoha, Black bellied Malkloha, Lineated Barbet, Red throated Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Blue winged Leafbird, Black naped Oriole, Common Iora, Streak eared Bulbul, Yellow vented Bulbul, Black headed Bulbul, Black Crested Bulbul, Stripe throated Bulbul and Red eyed Bulbul.
Red Whiskered Bulbul has also been recorded here in the past, although it is pretty certain than any remaining individuals would have to be escaped cagebirds due to the high demand for this species as songbirds throughout the southern provinces.
Blue winged Pitta is an uncommon yet annual visitor to the site and has been recorded breeding in the sanctuary grounds.
Plantation owners recall seeing owls about at night, and their descriptions lead me to consider the likelihood of Bay Owl, Brown Wood Owl and Buffy Fish Owl as being the main suspects. I would also assume that Brown Hawk Owl and Collared Scops Owl are common residents in the area.
Other birds include White rumped Munia, Scarlet backed Flowerpecker, Yellow vented Flowerpecker, Orange breasted Flowerpecker, Brown throated Sunbird, Olive backed Sunbird, Common Myna, Zebra Dove, Large billed Crow, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Koel and Black Drongo.
Fees and Accommodations
Klong Lumchan has a few rooms available for visitors, but the hassle of having to call in advance and obtaining permission to stay in the sanctuary will likely turn away most potential customers; not to mention there are numerous hotels and resorts along the main road which offer better accommodations with modern amenities at the same price.
The area is also rife with mosquitoes, especially in the evenings and early mornings. Protection, in the form of repellent or long-sleeved shirts and trousers is highly recommended.
Since it is a wildlife sanctuary, visitors are not required to pay an entrance fee to visit the site.
Directions to Klong Lumchan Non-Hunting Area
Klong Lumchan is very easy to find and is only a short drive from Trang municipality. Head out of Trang on Highway 4 in the direction of Phattalung and Songklah. After passing Na Yong Municipality, continue on until you reach a sharp curve in the road with cement barriers. From the eastbound lane it looks like you are driving over a bridge. Take the next U-turn and from there take the next left turn off the main highway.
The waterfowl park is on the right hand side of the road, marked by a wooden sign. It is located shortly after passing the temple.
Pros: Relatively peaceful; can be interesting when fruiting trees are ripe; arbors and walkways are well-maintained and offer a pleasant location for picnics or relaxation outdoors.
Cons: Quiet on most days; too few birds to warrant long hours spent at the site; lacks proper protection; receives a high level of disturbance from locals and fishermen at all hours of the day; many of the same birds found in the sanctuary are also present at Talae Noi, only 90 minutes away by car.
The idea to conserve the wildlife of Klong Lunchan was an undertaking doomed to failure from the very start. To begin with, the decision to gazette the land after it had been claimed by local villagers put the DNP at a disadvantage and made it impossible to fully protect the remaining lowland forest and peat swamp.
As the years wore on, more protected forest was encroached upon, diminishing the size of the forest “islands”; at the same time, aggressive hunting pressure, spurred by lax enforcement on the part of the DNP effectively exterminated all remaining wildlife. Once the wildlife disappeared, there was no more need to retain the forests, and in time the last remaining patches of forest were cleared to make room for rubber plantation.
Today, Klong Lumchan is a site which hangs in limbo. It’s far too small to warrant protection as a wildlife sanctuary which is why the DNP invests very little manpower and resources into managing it. However, it is still important as a habitat for a number of remaining species which depend on it for their survival.
I would recommend the DNP or local provincial administration to look into turning the area into a forest park by obtaining more land surrounding the swamp and adding more trees and replanting the reedbeds. Having a peaceful attraction where locals can go to meditate, exercise and feed fish is far better than having a stagnant pond where hunters and fishermen congregate or where local teenagers meet to hang out and blast local hits over portable loudspeakers.
The site will hardly draw the attention of serious birders and those who are interested in checking it out will find their visit short-lived. Those who are truly serious about seeing waterfowl and enjoying a prime wetland site in all its splendor should head east to Talae Noi, a mere 90-minute drive from Klong Lumchan. While Klong Lumchan only houses a handful of birds, Talae Noi is home to over 280 species of birds and has a lot more to offer to birders and tourists alike.
The page was last updated in April, 2018.
Klong Lumchan Non-Hunting Area in Photos