Sustainability Teaching and Learning Archive
Prem is an amazing a campus for observing wildlife, with ponds and reeds, flowing rivers, native and ornamental tree species, farmland, neighbouring rice paddies and cultivated gardens and fields.
As the seasons change, students and visitors cannot fail to notice migratory winter birds nesting, chicks from year-round residents and the presence of different butterflies, snakes and beetles.
These links introduce you to some of the creatures which make Prem Tinsulanonda International School their home.
|White-Rumped Shama||Banded Ox-Frog||Thailand Black Tarantula|
|Giant Wood Spider||Golden Tree Snake||Atlas Moth|
|Cicada||Huntsman Spider||Common Myna Bird|
|Tokay Gecko||Brown Stream Terrapin||Giant Katydid|
|Rhinoceros Beetle||Oriental Magpie Robin||Giant Land Snail|
The White-Rumped Shama makes its home in bamboo forests that can be found growing all over Thailand. The males are black with an orange chest, white on the underside of the tail, and big beautiful black eyes, while the females are more greyish in color and quite a bit smaller.
The White-Rumped Shama is a very shy bird and is typically seen during the hours of dawn and dusk. Although this is a very shy species of bird, they are usually quite approachable and allow you to capture a good photo or two before they fly away.
The White-Rumped Shama is famous for its singing which made them quite popular as cage birds all across Southeast Asia. They feed manly on insects in the wild, but in captivity feed on boiled and dried legumes with egg yolk and dried meat.
- The nest is made solely by the female while the male stands guard
- The males and females share a territory while in the breeding season, but occupy territory alone while not in breeding season
- The first recording of this birds call was made in 1889 using an Edison Wax Cylinder
- They lay a clutch of four or five light blue eggs with brown blotches and incubate them for twelve to fifteen days
The Banded Ox-Frog is a small very colorful frog and can be found in wetlands, along riverbanks, near the edge of forests, or even in your shower.
The male is just a tiny bit smaller than the female and it is almost impossible to tell the difference between them just by looking at them. This frog is completely harmless and like the puffer fish, it will inflate its body to make itself look a lot bigger when it is threatened.
The Banded Ox-Frog breeds in seasonal rain pools during the rainy season. After a good rainfall you will be able to hear hundreds of these little frogs all singing in unison during the night. These frogs are nocturnal and spend their days hiding in their burrows or under vegetation.
- This frog is very adaptable and is increasing in numbers quite rapidly
- This frog preys on ants and other small insects
- This frog can secrete a noxious (extremely unpleasant tasting) sticky substance when threatened, although it is non-toxic
- Males give their calls at night as they are floating on top of the water
Thailand Black Tarantula
The Thailand Black Tarantula is a beautiful member of the tarantula species, but it is an Old World tarantula. This means that it does not have urticating hairs to flick at you, so its venom is extra potent and is extremely aggressive.
Look at this guy from a distance, but do not touch him! This spider is often seen as a pest but it is actually the opposite: eating small rodents and a variety of insects, it does a lot more good than it does harm!
The Thailand Black Tarantula is a very shy species and spends most of its day hiding out in its underground burrow. Consider yourself lucky if you see this tarantula outside its burrow as it only comes out for an hour or two in the evenings to hunt for food!
- Males only live two – four years while females can live up to twelve years
- This species can grow up to six inches or fifteen centimetres in length
- The people of Cambodia and the people of North East Thailand like to eat this tarantula
- This spider lays an egg sac with anywhere between 75 and 200 eggs in it
Giant Wood Spider
The Giant Wood Spider is one of the largest (true) spiders in Thailand and the world! Its web can stretch up to six meters long in between trees and can easily be walked through if one is not paying attention.
This spider belongs to the Golden Orb Weaver family and has the strongest webbing of any spider, even strong enough to catch small bats and birds.
The female Giant Wood Spider can reach up to 20 cms in length; however, the male is tiny and is only a fraction of the size of the female. The male lives on the web with the female and steals food from her. After mating, the female digs a burrow in the ground to lay her massive clutch of eggs.
- The Giant Wood Spider can lay up to 2900 eggs per egg sac
- Largest and strongest web of any spider species
- Mild venom for hunting insects, but harmless to humans
- The Giant Wood Spider is very colorful: white, black, red, yellow and blue colors make up the pattern of this spider
Golden Tree Snake
The Golden Tree Snake is one of the most beautiful snakes in Thailand. They are also known as Flying Snakes due to their exceptional gliding abilities! The Golden Tree Snake is unmistakable and are generally a bright green color with a black chequered pattern on it.
Although this snake is said by most to be non-venomous, the truth is it actually is a venomous snake and has rear fangs in the back of their mouth - not like most venomous snakes with front fangs. However, while there is nothing to be worried about with this snake as the venom is not strong enough to do any serious harm to humans, it should be left alone if spotted. Active only during the daytime, you do not have to worry about one of these snakes crawling up into your bed with you in the middle of the night.
- This snake can leap from tree to tree just like gliding squirrels or lizards
- The favorite food of this snake is the Tokay Gecko
- At full maturity the Golden Tree Snake can reach 5 feet (150cm) in length
- The Golden Tree Snake will make a home anywhere it deems suitable, including inside your apartment
- This snake is most commonly seen sunning itself on the side of the road on a bright sunny day
Yikes! What is that?!
The Huntsman spider is one of the largest true spiders in the world (this does not include tarantulas) and can be found world-wide. This particular species of Huntsman is the Giant Huntsman Spider and it is the largest Huntsman Spider species in the world - it can get close to thirty centimetres in length.
The Huntsman Spider favours brown shaded areas such as wood and sand so they can easily blend into their surroundings. Although this spider looks absolutely terrifying, it is quite harmless to humans and is much more beneficial than problematic when it comes to them living inside your house!
- The Huntsman spider does not build webs to catch its prey; it waits patiently for something to walk by and ambushes it
- Huntsman spiders love to eat your household pests, especially cockroaches
- Huntsman spiders have been known to eat things the same size or sometimes bigger than themselves, including mice
- The Huntsman spider comes in many shapes and sizes and has roughly 1009 separate species making up their family, the Sparassidae Family
Brown Stream Terrapin
Peek-a-boo I see you!
The Brown Stream Terrapin is also commonly referred to as the Asian Leaf Turtle. This turtle can be identified by its rounded carapace or shell and can grow to be about 25cm in length.
The Brown Stream Terrapin can be found in almost any pond or river around Thailand, but tend to avoid anything that moves too quickly as this species of turtle is not a very strong swimmer. It would much rather walk freely along the bottom of a body of water than have to swim through it. Adults tend to spend most of their time at night on land and move to the water during the day when it is much hotter outside.
- The Brown Stream Terrapin is a true omnivore, eating both meat such as frogs or fish as well as eating fruit and vegetation
- The shell of this turtle has jagged edges on the back to help defend itself from becoming a tasty snack to a predator
- Part of the turtle’s generic name is "Cyclemys" which means circle turtle
- The Vietnamese Leaf Turtle is a close relative of the Asian Leaf Turtle and both are often mistaken for one another
Oriental Magpie Robin
The Oriental Magpie Robin is a fascinating bird that can be spotted all over the Chiang Mai area, as well as throughout the rest of Thailand. This bird is most common during the morning hours of the day and can be easily spotted on the roadside sitting on a post singing for your enjoyment.
The Oriental Magpie Robin is a fairly small bird, similar in size to a European Blackbird and occupies a similar niche to its estranged relative. The Oriental Magpie Robin can be found in parks, gardens, open land, grasslands and along the forest edge but best of all can be found on your lawn, hopping around flipping its tail around while it forages for invertebrates to snack on.
- The Magpie Robin is highly territorial and is not scared to put up a fight with any other bird species, including its own
- The Magpie Robin breeds between January and June in Thailand and can be found nesting in tree hollows or small holes in the side of a building
- This bird is the national bird of Bangladesh
- The Magpie Robin is particularly well known for its songs and was once popular as cage birds
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s an Atlas Moth
The Atlas Moth is the largest moth in the world growing up to 30cm in length! The Atlas Moth is generally maroon in color with white triangular "eye" shaped marks on the wings to help keep predators away.
The female Atlas Moth releases powerful pheromones into the air which the males can detect from several kilometres away with their giant feathery antennae. This moth lays her eggs underneath the leaves of only a select few citrus trees and other evergreens that can be found all over Thailand. The Atlas Moth eggs take about two weeks to hatch and it takes them about four weeks to emerge into the Atlas Moth after it has wrapped itself up nice and snug inside its cocoon.
- The cocoons of the Atlas Moth larvae are sold as purses in Taiwan
- Atlas Moths are said to be named after either the Titan of Greek Mythology, or their map-like wing patterns
- The Atlas Moth is also known as the Snake Head Moth because the tips of its wings look like the head of a snake
- The Atlas Moth does not possess fully formed mouthparts and throughout their full adult life, do not feed: they survive entirely on larval fat reserves that they build up while they are caterpillars
Common Myna Bird
Croak, squeak, chirp, squawk, click, and whistle!!
These are just some of the various noises that you may hear coming from one of these funny birds, the Common Myna Bird!
The Common Myna Bird is one of the most successful bird species on the planet and can be found almost all over the world. Despite these birds’ goofy antics, most people see it as a pest. If you leave food on your plate un-attended at the canteen, a group of these guys are sure to try and steal all the good stuff off of your plate.
The Common Myna loves to spend its time foraging through the grass for grasshoppers, so much in fact that its generic name "Acridotheres" means "Grasshopper Hunter."
- Common Mynas are believed to pair for life and stay with the same mate forever
- The Myna spends more time singing than it does eating every day
- The Myna will make its nest out of almost anything it can get its talons on including grass, weeds, roots, twigs, garbage, tinfoil, tissue paper and even snake skin
- The Myna lays between four to six eggs and it only takes about two weeks for them to hatch
- Before the Myna goes to sleep all of the Mynas in communion sing in unison which is known as "Communal Noise!"
If it is not a cicada that you hear at night making this deafening buzzing noise, it is most defiantly one of these giant grasshopper-looking bugs, a Katydid!
The Giant Katydid looks a bit scary, but they are very gentle bugs that stay motionless during the day to hide from trouble. By night time they become very active either hunting for food or trying to attract a mate. Katydids are related to grasshoppers so they look similar, but the long antennae and leaf-like appearance of the wings are the characteristics that distinguish them from their look-a-like relatives.
Where can I find one?
Finding one during the day can prove to be quite a challenge, but if you go out at night to look for one of these creatures it will not be hard at all! Just follow your ears. More than likely you will find them inside a bush or sitting on top amongst the leaves, so get your flashlight and go looking.
- The Katydid family contains over 6,400 species
- The male Giant Katydid has sound-producing organs on the hind of their wings which they use to create sound by rubbing them together
- It is believed to be one of the loudest insects on the planet
- The female is equipped with a long sword-like egg-laying organ which they use to lay their eggs inside rotting wood
Giant Land Snail
There’s nothing worse than hearing the sound of a snail crunching as you take a step, along with the instant guilt you feel knowing you’ve just, accidentally, destroyed that snail’s future. But take a look at this month’s Creature Feature animal and you’ll really hope you never experience stepping on one of these giant creatures during your stay at Traidhos.
The Giant Land Snail, often seen peacefully sliding across the pathway, looks quite used to this lifestyle but actually they originate from Africa. So did the Giant Land Snail slither all the way to Thailand, or just how did it get here?
First introduced to Thailand in the hope of breeding and eating this big beast, entrepreneurs didn’t quite realise just how well these snails would breed. With the additional ability of adapting to their new environment rapidly, Giant Land Snails have quickly populated various areas and habitats within Thailand and are now known across the world as one of the top 100 invasive species.
- Adults can reach up to 20 cms long and 7 cms tall
- Their lifespan is around six years but some snails are been recorded living up to the age of ten
- In the USA it is illegal to be found in possession of a Giant Land Snail
- Native to East Africa - Kenya and Tanzania
- Diet includes plant matter, fruits and vegetables
- Across the world people keep Giant Land Snails as pets
- Every snail has the ability to be both male or female
- In parts of Brazil, Giant Land Snails are given as an offering to the Obatala God
- Each snail can reproduce up to 200 eggs in one clutch, usually laying five or six clutches a year. That’s up to 1,200 babies from just one snail every year, or 7,200 baby snails produced within one adult’s lifespan! Now that’s a lot of snails!
Some people call them the fire engines of the forest; others just find their loud calling irritating.
Whether you know it or not, you have surely heard one of these insects, or more likely many of them calling at once, if you spent any time at Prem in the last few weeks. They make a high-pitched noise, starting with one insect until all of their friends join in for a cacophony of sound.
How do they make that noise? And why?
- The sound is made by vibrating a pair of ribbed plates in amplifying cavities at the base of the abdomen
- The males of each species make their distinctive noise to attract a mate. Of all the bugs on the planet, cicadas are the loudest, with sound able to travel a mile
- Of all the species of cicada, each makes its own noise. Females are able to distinguish between the sounds, even though they are very similar
- Different species can be heard at different times of the day. While some prefer mating during the day, others prefer the evening hours
- Cicadas spend most of their lives as nymphs underground. This may be as long as seventeen years. After morphing into adults, some cicadas live two to three weeks while others live only for a less than a day or two
- The female cicada can lay four hundred to six hundred eggs
- After the adults have mated both will die
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Have you heard this noise coming from your backyard? Chances are you’ve got one of these creatures hiding in the trees, or maybe even clinging to your house, waiting for night to fall and feeding time to begin.
Their favourite foods include cockroaches, crickets, and small vertebrates such as mice.
Where can you find a Tokay?
As a nocturnal lizard, your best chances of spotting one of these are at night when they are active. It is native to rainforest trees and cliffs; however, they have adapted to an urban lifestyle where they occupy ceilings, walls, and lamp posts.
- Lifespan: seven to ten years in the wild, up to twenty years in captivity
- They do not have eyelids and they use their long tongue to clean their eyes
- Their tail is used to store fat, and it will break off the gecko is threatened. The wiggling of the discarded tail distracts the enemy, allowing the gecko to escape. A new tail grows back in several months, but it is always smaller than the original tail
- Males are very territorial, and will fight other males to keep their home area guarded for food and rights to females
Have you ever seen a big black beetle tied to a piece of sugar cane?
If you haven't yet, keep your eyes peeled because beetle fighting season is on its way!
Many local Thai boys will find a big rhinoceros beetle and keep it as their "pet." Then, after school, they will ride around the village with their prize bug and have battle of the beetles to see who picked the strongest creature.
What are they?
The rhinoceros beetle is the common name that encompasses a wide array of species. In Northern Thailand, there are several species crawling through the forest, the rice paddies, or just cruising along the sidewalks here at Prem. They come in different shapes and sizes and all have a tough outer shell to keep them safe from predators and other rhino beetles.
- Super-strength: these beetles can carry up to 850 times their own body weight! This makes them the strongest animal on land, proportional to their size. That's like a 60 kg person carrying 51,000 kg!
- Their common name refers to the giant horn that emerges from the beetles head. These horns are used to battle for territory and, for males, mating rights with female beetles. The size and number of horns varies greatly between species, ranging from one to five horns.
- They are an important part of the ecosystem as they help recycle decaying plant material back into the soil by eating away at fallen leaves and rotting trees.
Traidhos Three-Generation Community Created Wetland
The idea for the created wetland came from trying to solve a problem.
One day when VSP staff and students were building rafts near the cafeteria, the students commented that the water seemed quite dirty and green.
We discovered that some of the grey water from the residential buildings fed into the lake. The high levels of soaps from students showering increased the nutrient content in the lake and promoted the growth of algae and other matter.
VSP staff wanted to do something about the problem. Research showed that some plant species act as natural filters. We met with Ajarn Suwasa from Chiang Mai University who advised us that by creating a wetland environment we could sustainably clean the grey water before it entered the lake. Ajarn Suwasa also advised that a new wetland would also provide a habitat to increase biodiversity on the campus.
VSP staff Matthew Matziel drew up a plan that K Sakchai amended, to allow grey water to pass through a series of plant beds before feeding into the lake. Advice was also sort from Commonwealth School Singapore who have already created a similar wetland in their school grounds.
Work has now started on the new wetland and a further progress report will be issued in due course.
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