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Shifting from logging to guarding the forest proved to be a crucial turning point for Samak as it changed his attitude towards nature. Recalling his past, Samak said: “I didn’t spare much thought on tearing down a tree or clear-cutting a forest.
We used a tractor to clear the forest, turning it into bare land. A logging truck would be running and dragging away the small logs, churning out and spreading clouds of dust all over.”
Wake-up callThe wake-up call came when Samak encountered a bamboo forest that was clear-cut to supply raw materials for a toothpick factory. Since then, he has developed a new way of thinking, influenced by the pure nature found in the Klong Lan National Park, part of Thailand’s Western Forest Complex, which supports a broad range of biodiversity and a high density of tigers, and where he now works.
“Nature taught me to be humble and inspired me to start protecting the forest,” said Samak.
Nowadays, Samak is busy with his colleagues reaching out to the villagers living in the park’s surroundings. But it had not been easy. During the years when the government closed the forest concessions, many villagers were arrested for going into these areas to collect forest products for their own consumption and livelihood. This antagonized and alienated the villagers.
From enemies to friends“In the beginning, when we talked to the people, many scolded us, so much so that my ears became numbed,” said Samak.
So Samak had to change tactic. He and the park rangers started befriending the villagers, drinking with them. As soon as Samak realised they were on the right path, everyone became patient and moved along, patrolling and reaching out to the people.
Samak also involved the people in organising activities such as patrol training, awareness raising, and holding exhibitions in schools. Eventually they came round, no longer seeing the park rangers and officials as enemies but friends.
A victoryToday, the villagers acknowledge and share the problems facing the park. They understand better the roles of park officials and are on the same side, acting as their eyes and ears in guarding against illegal hunters. Samak believes this is a huge victory, not only for him, but for the forest.
Samak is also pleased with the training he is receiving in the new SMART patrol system, provided by the National Park with WWF’s support. The training has provided the rangers with better patrolling techniques and given them self-confidence. This has resulted in more effective protection and reduced illegal activities in the park.
For Samak, every time he goes on patrol in the forest, he feels comforted. Now as well, his face lights up whenever he talks about the forest. He is grateful he gets to enjoy the forest and nature.
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In the beginning, when we talked to the people, many scolded us, so much so that my ears became numbed. So I had to change tactic.