Filming in Phana

Back in April of this year, the Phana Macaque Project advertised in Wildlife Film News ( for a volunteer videographer to shoot and edit a film for us here in the Thai Monkey Forest at Don Chao Poo Forest, Phana District, Amnat Charoen Province, in north-east Thailand. We were surprised by how many well-qualified young professionals applied, but very quickly invited Erin Ranney and James Jeffries to take up the challenge. They were both close to completing their MA in Wildlife Documentary film Production at Salford University in the UK. They had backgrounds that we found very interesting (Erin mentioned tracking wolves and bears in her native Alaska) and it seemed that perhaps we could give their post-grad careers a kick start.

They have been here in Phana for 3 weeks now and have another 3 weeks to go. Already they have shot a lot of footage but they are keeping the shape of the final film pretty much to themselves. But they already have something to share with us — and you– and you will find the links below. But first, a few words of introduction from Erin:

“James and I just turned in our final films for our MA in Wildlife Documentary Production before heading here to Phana to film the macaques of Don Chao Poo Forest. We finished up our editing for the final films in September in the U.K. We both have background in biological sciences and are hoping to produce a film about the human and monkey interactions occurring in Phana — both  the pros and the cons.

Throughout the filming process, James has been documenting not only our “behind the scenes” for our forest films but also filming our every day activities and adventures in Thailand, just as he had for his final film in Orkney. These films will give you a brief idea of what it is like to stay in Phana, go to the temples, visit the monkeys and so much more. Our host Lawrence and his wife Pensri have given us an inside look at the culture and life in Phana that James hopes he can share.

Each week he works to produce a 5-7 minute film and so far- three have been completed.

Enjoy and keep an eye out for THAI//4”


Posted in Amnat Charoen Province, Long-tailed Macaques, Phana Monkey Project, Thai wildlife film, Volunteering Thailand | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mahidol University Students in Don Chao Poo Forest

The Phana Macaque Project was very pleased and proud to host three students from Mahidol University for 10 weeks recently. The students were in Phana to get work experience for their third-year project. Arin Yotthonglang (“A”), Natchanok Pangsang (“Tai”) and Sakchai Kurujitgosol (“Chris”) carried out  variety of work in Don Chao Poo Forest, and more widely in the community. They were well supervised and advised by the tutor assigned to them by the university, who made several visits to them during the time they spent with us, and they also had contact with staff at Mahidol’s branch at Amnat Charoen through the projects the Don Chao Poo Research Centre is running in collaboration with Mahidol University.

Here they are in front of the Chao Poo Shrine with Khun Ta Putta Tabutda, the specialist who identifies trees and medicinal plants as part of the forest survey project. The three students assisted with the collection of data for this project, the Plant Genetic Conservation Project (OPST is the Thai abbreviation we mostly know it by), which is run by Mahidol University on behalf of HRH the Crown Princess.


With Pensri, they researched and recorded evidence of ‘old growth forest’ in two areas of the forest, creating a photographic database.

Old growth survey


They worked with two volunteers, Eric (from USA) and Helen (from UK)  in conducting a series of experiments to determine to what extent monkeys have a colour preference. Monkeys were offered food on dustbin lids or in buckets, always with a choice of 3 colours from red, green, blue and black.


With Helen and Eric they also counted monkeys in several locations in and around the forest at various times of the day and produced usage density maps which have proved very useful in indicating the presence and movement of monkeys through the day. They also spent time with us observing monkeys assembling at their sleeping sites.

Feeding and watering the monkeys was a daily chore which they enjoyed, once they and the monkeys had got used to each other. They even invited two other Mahidol University students to join them.

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They got out and about in Phana, too, and seemed to be enjoying themselves:


Arin W on ring rd    MU 2 Chris TaiMU at M Sawat    MU jump for joy

For one week they were assigned to the Thai Traditional Medicine Centre, Phana, where they studied traditional herbal medicines being prepared and helped packing them. They also spent time learning about the Centre’s therapeutic massages.

During the week they spent working for the municipality, they prepared a report setting out how much carbon could be absorbed by various types of tree found locally, and they set up model to be used by the municipality in its effort to lower carbon in the local environment.

In their last couple of weeks they renewed the exhibition marking Phana’s 300 years of history, and re-designed several panels for the long-tailed macaque infomation exhibition, both of which which considerably brightened up the Rin-Homhuan Mahanil Study Centre.

Finally they worked on an extension of the OPST which involved collecting, sorting, identifying and drying a range of plants found in Don Chao Poo forest. Here they are at work at the Don Chao Poo Research Centre:

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These three students from Mahidol University have been gone a month now, but we still miss them! And we remember the valuable work they did for us while they were in Phana. We hope that Phana has made a useful contribution to their studies in return.

Thanks to “A”, Chris and Tai!

Posted in Bio-diversity, Community action, Mahidol University, OPST, Plant Genetic Conservation Project, Provisioning long-tailed macaques, Research | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Butterfly Spotting and Identification in Don Chao Poo Forest, Phana

Butterfly Spotting and Identification in Don Chao Poo Forest, Phana

By Helen Ford


The forest here is full of biodiversity. You have the macaques, monitor lizards, birds of prey, ground squirrels and an abundance of different insects. My focus was on the lepidoptera (moths and butterflies). I was interested in identifying as many as possible, yet this was easier said than done, as most do not stay in one place even for a second and I only gave myself 3 days to complete the task. Butterflies can be seen throughout the forest and there is even much diversity in the species in the town itself. Look hard enough and you will find a new species every day. I decided to record what I observed in a few specific locations in the forest, where if you spent just 15 minutes in each site, you would be able to see a range of different species in each location.


(Google Earth, 2014)

Site 1

Date: 09/06/2015, Time: 9:35am

Habitat type: Scrub/grassland/bare ground/forest edge

Butterflies identified: Grass Yellow, Tawny Coster, Common Jay

Butterflies unidentified: Black with swallow tail and white markings (possibly Common Mormon), large white/cream very common throughout forest, brown underside of wings with blue on inside (see picture).

Other notes: Found 2 different kinds of caterpillar. One belonging to Tawny Coster (red spiky).


Tawny Coster (Acraea terpsicore). Host plant is the passion flower which are found in site 1. Below is its larval form. Photo by Helen Ford.



Grass Yellow Butterfly (Eurema hecabe). Photo by Helen Ford.


As yet unidentified caterpillar. Photo by Helen Ford.


Unidentified butterfly. Photo by Helen Ford.


Date: 10/06/2015, Time 4:20pm

Butterflies present: Tawny Coster, grass yellow

Unidentified: suspected lime butterfly, other white with black markings, black with white bottom and bluish black tinge.

Other notes: On way to site, on path from shrine spotted Peridrome orbicularis, (see other locations) on underside of a leaf. (Spotted again on Buddha Path near Buddha 1 the following day at similar time).

Site 2 (OTP Road)

Date 09/06/2015, Time: 11:00am4

Habitat: Concrete/scrub/forest edge

Butterflies identified: Common Jay, Lime, Grass Yellow, Tawny Coster

Unidentified: Lots of large white/ cream butterflies, small white with black markings, white and black spotted- possibly Common Mime.

Site 3 (North side of pond)

Date: 09/06/2015, Time: 12.15am

Habitat: grassland/scrub/concrete/pond/ forest edge

Butterflies identified: Tawny Coster, Grass Yellow,


Same Day, Time 5:45pm

Virtually none present

Site 4 (South of pond)

Butterflies identified: Yellow Orange Tip Butterfly (Ixias pyrene), tawny coster, grass yellow

Unidentified: Yellow spotted, small brown with eyes on outside of wings,

Habitat: Same as site 3


Same Day, Time 5:30pm

Butterflies identified: Common Rose, Blue Tiger

Unidentified: Possible Black Mime

Site 5 (Around Buddha 1)

Date: 10/06/2014, Time: 9:00am

Habitat: Concrete/ clearing/ forest edge/ forest

Butterflies/ Moths identified: Plain banded awl, blue tiger, and grass yellow

Unidentified: Other small white and black species and larger yellow and cream species


Plain Banded Awl (Hasora vitta). Taken by Helen Ford

Site 6 (Around Temple)

Date: 11/06/2015, Time: 9:40am

Habitat: Forest edge/ clearing/ building/scrub

Butterflies identified: Grass Yellow, Common Rose

Unidentified: white with black veins see picture


Unidentified as yet.

Other Locations


Peridrome orbicularis. Sighted between Site 1 and Shrine.

Photo by Helen Ford


Yamfly (Loxura atymnus).

Sighted on Buddha path between central road and Buddha 3.

Photo by Helen Ford


Google Earth, 29/01/2014. 15⁰40’09.51” N 104⁰51’31.65” E, elevation 152 m.

Accessed: 11/06/2015.

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Monkeys and Water

CL at work

Chris Love was with us in Phana for about six months. He provided water for the monkeys almost every morning, first thing. He managed to combine that with taking some great photographs of the monkeys. Here are some which show how much the monkeys appreciated having water provided for them.

monkey & hose pipe CL1 Monkeys water CL monkey water CL CL fb8 CL fb5 CL fb4 CL fb2

Posted in Long-tailed Macaques, Macaques, Macaques habituated to humans, Phana Monkey Project, Provisioning long-tailed macaques | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Population increases in Don Chao Poo Forest


There is no doubt that the population of long-tailed macaques in Don Chao Poo Forest, Phana, is increasing and in the long run that could adversely affect the lives of the monkeys as well as nearby human residents. In the meantime, everybody loves a new-born. This one was just a day or two old when we photographed her with her mother. Already she was eager to get to know her mother’s relatives it seems. And before long it looks as though she will have a cousin almost her own age.







Posted in Long-tailed Macaques, Macaca Fascicularis, monkey forest, Monkeys, Phana Monkey Project, wildlife photography | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feeding Monkeys in the Forest

New video produced by Phana Macaque Project

This is the English-language version of a video we have produced. The target audience of the Thai-language version is Phana school students. We hope that they will gain a greater understanding of the monkeys, learn to feed them safely and appropriately.

 The video lasts for a little over 11 minutes. We hope you will enjoy it.


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Preparing for the Monks’ Retreat


Every year at the end of December, Don Chao Poo Forest, Amphur Phana, Amnat Charoen Province, is host to a 10-day retreat for several hundred monks and lay men and women. The monks come from all over Isan and they camp in the forest. The local monks join them every day but return to their monasteries each evening. The local abbots and the monks together with the headmen and headwomen of the 34 villages that make up Phana District make all the arrangements and together with villagers they spend a week or so preparing the forest and the facilities that will be needed. And every day, villagers come into the forest to provide lunch for those who are making the preparations.

In the run-up to the start of the retreat,  perhaps 30 or 40 people are eating in the forest at about 11 am each day. But once the retreat starts, villages will take it in turns to share the responsibility of feeding the monks and lay people who are taking part in the retreat; and when they have eaten, the villagers themselves will eat, breakfast and lunch. And that means that up to 600 people may be eating two meals in the forest every day.

Crockery has to be taken out of store and washed and this group of women seemed to enjoy doing that – or at least they enjoyed having their photo taken while doing it.

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The forest itself is tidied up: the monks practise walking meditation so paths are swept clear of fallen leaves and some of the undergrowth cut back.

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Toilet and washing facilities have to be cleaned and fresh water put into the tanks. There are several of these scattered around in the southern part of the forest, mostly out of sight and forgotten for the rest of the year.


One building is given over to the senior monks, who do their teaching here:


And the area where the monks sit for their breakfast and lunch and to listen to the teaching is made more comfortable by having straw laid out on the forest floor.


Monks are summoned to the teaching sessions by this bell:


Trees are festooned with electrical wiring and neon lights and here is the control centre:


And the lay women who will be joining the retreat are afforded some privacy for their  camping area:


The Phana Monkey Project has been helping with the preparations, too. We painted the toilets that are provided for the people who organize food and do the washing up during the retreat. And more importantly we have been putting out 15 dustbins in the camping and eating areas and we will be emptying them daily during the 10-day retreat. We are expecting to clear a lot of litter and waste in the coming days!

Posted in Amnat Charoen Province, Ceremonies and Celebrations, Community action, Litterbins, Dustbins, monkey forest, Phana Monkey Project | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment