Enthralled tourists, finding themselves amid the embrace of nature’s raw beauty, had their sights captivated by a regal black panther. Their vehicles transformed into impromptu paparazzi stations, rolling cameras and clicking shutters froze the big cat’s majestic amble down the road—a road that seemed now to be a runway for forest royalty. An intriguing observation arose as the panther, instead of darting into the underbrush, walked with a leisurely gait that hinted at a peculiar, slight stumble.
The scene sparked concerns of injury, but park officials, after scrutinizing the footage, shared the heartening confirmation: the black panther was the picture of feline finesse. The elegant creature was proposed to be nothing more than a connoisseur of comfort, opting to stroll down the road simply to luxuriate in the caressing warmth of the morning sun—despite the nippy air that swathed the park.
Tucked away within the verdant expanse, Kaeng Krachan National Park is a rich tapestry of biodiversity spanning a vast 2,915 square kilometers. As park chief Mongkol Chaiphakdi elucidated, such sightings are rare pearls—only about 10 panthers and their lesser-spotted leopard cousins have graced eyes since the advent of trail cameras in 2013. This elusive attendance underscores the privileged spectacle enjoyed by the visitors that brisk morning.
Panthers, along with other leopards, are the introverts of the predator world, shunning the limelight and evading human interactions with a preference that verges on protocol. Their typical response to an audience? A brisk retreat to solitude. Mongkol Chaiphakdi offers words of caution akin to a mantra for harmonious coexistence: ‘Maintain the sanctity of their home. Keep within your metal chariots, refrain from raucous disruption, and allow your cameras to capture memories without the harsh glare of flash.’
Resplendence in wildlife does not rest solely upon the panthers’ tenebrous shoulders in this Thai gem. Kaeng Krachan boasts a menagerie of gaur, elephants that tread as if they are the very custodians of the ancient land, dusky leaf monkeys that mirror the monochrome dapples of light through the canopies, agile gibbons, and resounding hornbills. A particular feathered celebrity is the ratchet-tailed treepie—recognized by its extravagant tail—a bird as unique to the park as the verdant grandeur to the nation. The park’s ecological splendor was further heralded with its consecration as a UNESCO World Heritage site, eternally inscribing the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex in the annals of global reverence in 2021.