Bats of Thailand

My trip to Malaysia, both Sabah and Peninsular was a huge disappointment in terms of both wildlife and travel experience so I have decided not to write a report. I have seen 24 species, of which 16 were new for me. 

What a contrast with Malaysia! This trip turned out to be an absolute blast!

The reason I chose Thailand over let’s say Cambodia or Laos is not necessarily that it has more bats, but it’s because of BatThai. This group is studying bats all over the country, including Kerivoula picta, a species that’s very widespread and fairly common but extremely hard to find for the uninitiated.

Before meeting the people from BatThai to go look for Kerivoula picta, the Painted Bat, and Craseonycteris thonglongyai, the Bumblebee bat, I spent a few days in Kaeng Krachan, a national park well known for its exceptional birding. 

The rules of the park forbid leaving the camping grounds after sunset. The elephants roaming around seem like a reasonable explanation for it, despite it being quite frustrating! 

This meant all I could do to find bats there was to walk around the grounds with my recorder. I still managed to get Rhinolophus malayanus and R.lepidus, two common species in SE Asia as well as Tylonycteris robustula, also quite common but not easy to record. 

The signs in Kaeng Krachan were somewhat exotic...
Kiwi posing with what must be one of the coolest bat stickers out there
On our way to find some Painted bats in East Thailand

After this short introduction to Thai fauna, it was time to head back to Bangkok before heading to East Thailand for the Painted bats. It’s an extremely long drive with not much happening on the way but it’s definitely well worth it! 

 

Upon our arrival in the village, we were told the villagers hadn’t yet found Painted bats that day. So we waited…but not very long! We hopped on a local tractor and were on the way to a banana plant, hosting the little orange fur ball. When seen on photos, it’s hard to believe this bright orange coat acts as camouflage. When observed roosting inside a curled up dead banana leaf, it’s a completely different story! No wonder very few people manage to find the species on their own… After taking some photos, we released the bat back into the wild, observing its butterfly-like flight (hence why it’s sometimes called Butterfly Bat). We then were on the move again to see two more. 

This village protects the Painted bats and is happy to show them to visitors. This village only has very moderate income, from Ricefield Rats and some textiles. I will not give the location of the village because I do not want anyone to go without making sure the villagers’ efforts are rewarded. However, do contact me if you are interested in going there, I’d be very happy to put you in touch with the right people. 

Does this bat really need a caption?

After this incredible experience, it was time to move on again, because of my tight schedule. We headed back to the West of the country, to an area with lots of caves. On the way, we stopped at a colony of Pteropus lylei in Ang Thong. 

In Kanchanaburi, we visited a total of 7 caves. Three of them had Craseonycteris thonglongyai in them, though this species was usually in an inaccessible part of the cave. This species is protected in Thailand. Again, no exact locations on this blog but contact me if you’re interested. 

Other notable species we found include four species of Rhinolophus, Taphozous spp. and one of the highlights of the trip, Aselliscus stoliczkanus. This could be the most reliable location in SE Asia, unknown before this trip when a monk told us about this cave. 

Taphozous melanopogon
Unidentified snake protecting the cave
A couple of Aselliscus stoliczkanus

This trip far exceeded my expectations and I had an amazing time there! I would really recommend contacting BatThai if you’re planning a trip there. You may be able to do some of the things on your own but the language and cultural barriers will stop you from accessing a number of key sites. 

Total: 29 species, of which 19 were new.

The smallest bat in the world, and also likely the smallest mammal in the world, Craseonycteris thonglongyai

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