Area 2,168 km (837 sq mi)
Visitors 828,525 (3 Apr 2014)
|Nearest city Pak Chong|
|Governing body Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation|
Khao Yai National Park (Thai: เขาใหญ่, [kʰǎw jàj]) is a national park in Thailand.
Khao Yai National Park is in the western part of the Sankamphaeng Mountain Range, at the southwestern boundary of the Khorat Plateau. The highest mountain in the area of the park is 1,351 m high Khao Rom.
This park lies largely in Nakhon Ratchasima Province (Khorat), but also includes parts of Saraburi, Prachinburi, and Nakhon Nayok Provinces.
The park is the third largest in Thailand. It covers an area of 300 square kilometers, including tropical seasonal forests and grasslands. Its altitude mostly ranges from 400–1,000 m above sea level. There are 3,000 species of plants, 320 species of birds like red junglefowl and coral-billed ground cuckoo, and 66 species of mammals, including Asian black bear, Indian elephant, gaur, gibbon, Indian sambar deer, pig-tailed macaque, Indian muntjac, Ussuri dhole, and wild pig. Although evidence of tiger presence has not been recorded recently, monitoring by Freeland Foundation in collaboration with Department of National Park rangers has discovered tigers (the Indochinese tiger subspecies) in other parts of eastern Thailand where they were previously thought to have been completely extirpated. Its waterfalls include the 80 metre Heo Narok, and Heo Suwat made famous from the film The Beach. Namtok Sarika is popular with the Thais.
Recent wildlife studies show that animal ranges, particularly the few resident tigers, are impacted by human activity near the center of the park. This study has not deflected the government's call for private lodging concessions within the park itself.
Around 1922 some people from Ban Tha Dan and Ban Tha Chai villages in Nakhon Nayok Province built a settlement within the forest in the Sankamphaeng mountains. Up to 30 households cultivated the land. The area was formally recognized by the government and classified as Tambon Khao Yai within Pak Phli District.
However, due to its remoteness from the authorities it became a refuge for criminals and fugitives. After an attempt to capture the suspects in the area, in 1932 the villagers were relocated into the plains some 30 km away and the tambon status was cancelled.
In 1959 the prime minister, Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, instructed the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of the Interior to create a process whereby national parks could be established.
Khao Yai National Park was then established on September 18, 1962, declared by royal proclamation in the Government Gazette (Book 79, Section 89) as the first national park in Thailand. A major role in its establishment was played by Boonsong Lekakul, one of the 20th century's most famous Thai conservationists. It was named after the defunct tambon, Khao Yai.
In 1984 the park was made an ASEAN Heritage Park, and on July 14, 2005 the park, together with other parks in the same range and in the Dong Phaya Yen Mountains further north, was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name "Dong Phaya Yen–Khao Yai Forest Complex". As the lands adjacent to the national park are becoming increasingly developed into luxury hotels and golf courses, acquiring land for future wildlife conservation efforts is becoming problematic. Homes and residential villas have been built illegally within the limits of the protected area of the forest. Illegal logging is also a problem in the area of the park.
Khao Yai National Park has three main seasons, with an annual mean temperature of 23° Celsius, though this varies greatly with the seasons.
Limestone is present towards the eastern end close to the Dângrêk Mountains. Sandstone outcrops exist in the south and north of the park. Shales and schist are also present. In the south, steep slopes made of granite and conglomerates are seen.
There are four drainage areas in the park which are vital catchments for four river systems. The Takhong River drains from the central Khao Yai area and runs in a northeasterly direction to the Mekong. The Sai Yai system drains from the eastern basin, turning sharply into the southern floodplains and on to the Gulf of Thailand. The Nakhon Nayok river system drains from the southwest watershed into Nakhon Nayok Province to the south. The Saraburi Province drainage system drains westward from the far west of Khao Yai.
Khao Yai is home to a variety of animals. It is one of the few places in Thailand where wild elephants still survive. They are regularly seen and are a major tourist attraction. Other larger animals include gibbons, pig-tailed macaques, muntjacs and sambar deer.
The park is often visited by travelers from Isan, Bangkok and beyond. There are per-day fees for visitors and vehicles., with concessions for Thais or Thai residents.