December 31st, 2015 by Norm Schriever
Thailand is an animal lover’s paradise, with at least 401 species of reptiles, 1,000 different mammal species, 1,338 types of butterflies and 1,000 different birds. Here is a quick rundown of some of the most common and notable animals you might see in Thailand!
The most dangerous animals in Thailand
There are several species of dangerous animals, reptiles, fish, and insects in Thailand that tourists and visitors should be aware of.
Believe it or not, mosquitos are responsible for more human deaths in the world than any other animal! That’s because some tropical mosquitos carry dangerous illnesses like Dengue and Malaria. The good news is that most of Thailand is not Malaria territory and simply spraying on some bug spray will prevent problems.
There are numerous dangerous and poisonous snakes in Thailand, including the Chain Viper, six species of poisonous Cobras including the spitting Cobra and the King Cobra, Coral Snakes, Pit Vipers, and several kinds of Krait.
Sea snakes are also very poisonous, and staying in the water, there are dangerous Rockfish, Dragonfish found around coral reefs, and some species of poisonous jellyfish.
Watch out for things that crawl like centipedes, known as ‘Tdakab’ in Thai, because there are a couple varieties than can deliver a nasty sting. Scorpions are prevalent in some areas and though they can deliver a sting like a wasp and quite a scare, aren’t particularly poisonous or dangerous.
Since most of Thailand was tropical jungle and forest traditionally, there were a lot of species of snakes, though their numbers have diminished slightly. Other than the aforementioned Cobra, poisonous snakes include the Oriental whip snake, Southern bridle snake, Kanburi pit viper, Malayan pit viper, the reticulated python, the Asiatic rock python and the Sumatran short-tailed python, just to name a few. In all there are about 60 species or more of poisonous snakes.
But don’t worry; there are about 200 species of snakes in Thailand but the vast majority of them are neither aggressive nor poisonous.
Elephants, called “Chang” in the Thai language, are highly revered and respected in the nation. In fact, the likeness of an elephant used to adorn the flag of Thailand and Chang is still the name of the most popular beer there.
For centuries, elephants were used for logging and other heavy tasks, and unfortunately poached for their skin, tusks, and meat. But conservation efforts by the Thai government started with a 1989 ban on logging, recasting elephants as a tourist attraction, not a beast of burden. These days, there are plenty of places around the country you can see and experience elephants, but they often fall under criticism from western animal rights groups for their treatment. While there definitely need to be strides to take better care of these large mammals, what at is often not understood in the west is that the tourism is the only way for elephant owners to make enough money to feed and care for them, which is no small undertaking.
There are some great elephant rescues and reserves around the country that treat the animals ethically and safely and promote education for all.
While several species of tigers used to roam free in the jungles and hills of Thailand, but these days, it’s estimated that only 250 to 300 exist in the wild. What you will find are a lot of “tiger farms” and even the Tiger Temple, where tourists can get up close and touch and pose for photos with the regal beasts. But just like elephant farms, these have fallen under fire from animal rights groups, who suspect the tigers are drugged or sedated or often trained with cruel and painful methods.
Thailand is also home to other beautiful big cats like leopards, jungle cats, leopard cats, and the civet cat.
Other large animals
Elephants and tigers aren’t the only grand animals in Thailand, as the country is also the indigenous habitat for the red and the Sumatran rhinoceros, the Malayan sun bear, the Asiatic black bear, the Eld’ s deer, the Schombugk’s deer, the Sambar deer, the mouse-deer, the Asian wild dog, the sperm whale, wild pigs, hogs, goats, oxen, tapirs, wild cattle, and otter.
Monkeys, macaque, and gibbons
Thailand has no shortage of monkeys roaming around in the wild, especially on islands like Koh Pi Pi, Koh Phangan, Koh Chang, and deeper in the forests. A lot of the monkeys you might see aren’t monkeys at all but macaques, including the Rhesus macaque, the Stump-tail macaque, the pig-tailed and the long-tailed macaque and the Assamese macaque. Gibbons like the white-handed gibbon and the black-handed gibbon are also prevalent, though it is more rare to spot them since they live high up in the canopy, swinging around (most monkeys jump) from tree to tree with long arms but no tail, singing distinctly.
Lizards, reptiles, and turtles
There are hundreds of species of reptiles common to Thailand but you’ll probably first spot the common house gecko. They are harmless (or even quite beneficial, as they eat mosquitos and other insects) and even considered good luck! The Tokay Gecko is harder to spot but easy to hear, as it omits a loud clicking noise that sounds like ‘TOO-KEHH.’ There are also larger geckos – the nik-kae – that have known to be aggressive when they are territorial, as well as the black jungle monitor lizard.
Thailand is also home to one of the most ancient species on earth, turtles, including the loggerhead turtle, the Asiatic soft shell turtle and the black turtle.
The world’s smallest bat (and possibly the smallest mammal in the world) calls Thailand home. The bumble bee bat, also known as the Khun Kitti bat or Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, lives in western Thailand and southeast Burma in riverside caves and only grows to about 1.1-1.3 inches.
Thailand is the habitat for some majestic dolphins, including the spinner dolphin and the rough-toothed dolphin and their distant cousin, the black finless porpoise. It was also one of the few places on earth where freshwater dolphins existed. Still to this day, its believed that a small number of Irrawaddy and bottlenose dolphin swim in the freshwater rivers in central Thailand.
While there are so many species of fish in Thailand’s waters it’s almost impossible to count them, it’s estimated there are at least 365 species of just coral reef fish in the Gulf of Thailand alone! The world’s largest freshwater fish, the Giant Mekong Catfish, can be found in Thailand, as can the Whale Shark, the largest fish in the world.
Those sleek and looming crocs lurk through Thailand’s seas, including both the Siamese and the saltwater crocodile. There are also thought to be five species of freshwater crocodiles, the largest in captivity reaching almost 20 feet long and weight well over a ton!
Things that fly
There are more than 1,000 species of birds and 1,338 of butterflies in Thailand, making it a naturalists dream!
Sadly, there are several specials of animals indigenous to Thailand that already have been rendered extinct, including the kouprey (a species of wild cattle), Schomburgk’s deer and the Javan rhinoceros.