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The DPZ in Thailand

Research station

Residential building at the PKWS research station. Photo: Oliver Schülke
Residential building at the PKWS research station. Photo: Oliver Schülke

The research station Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (PKWS) is located in the center of a protected forest area of the same name in the Northeast of Thailand. Within the Wildlife Sanctuary the field station is situated at Thung Ka Mung next to the local headquarters of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) of Thailand. Around 80 wildlife rangers and administrative employees live and work there. In 2000 Andreas Koenig and Carola Borries (Stony Brook University, NY) established the local research site Huai Mai Sot Yai for research on the behavioral ecology of nonhuman primates, since 2005 Julia Ostner and Oliver Schülke (University of Göttingen) expanded it. Since 2015 the DPZ supports the field site, which is the field site is supported by the DPZ, has taken over the financing of the field station, which is jointly headed by Julia Ostner and Oliver Schülke from the research group "Social Evolution in Primates."

A male Assamese macaque on the watch in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand. Photo: Oliver Schülke
A male Assamese macaque on the watch in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand. Photo: Oliver Schülke

Research

In close cooperation with partners from the Kasetsart University in Bangkok and the DNP, the research group "Social Evolution in Primates" adopts an integrative socio-ecological approach to illuminate the causes and consequences of social relationships within and between species. Detailed and systematic behavioral data collection of Assamese macaques (Macaca assamensis) began with the habituation of the first multimale – multifemale group in 2006 and has since then been expanded to four groups. Living in groups is characterized by various forms of competition for food, for secure spatial positions within the group, as well as for access to mating and social partners.

The research team of the macaque project at the PKWS field station in Thailand. Photo: Kittisak Srithorn
The research team of the macaque project at the PKWS field station in Thailand. Photo: Kittisak Srithorn

Therefore on top of an extensive habitat description we regularly collect detailed data on food availability, individual physical condition and female reproductive state, measure genetic consequences of reproductive competition and quantify various endocrinological parameters in order to relate these factors to the strength and quality of social relationships as well as their fluctuations over time. In ongoing projects, we focus on the interactions between interindividual differences, social cognition and social relations as well as on the interplay between sociality and health.

The kitchen at PKWS in Thailand. Photo: Oliver Schülke
The kitchen at PKWS in Thailand. Photo: Oliver Schülke

Infrastructure

PKWS is 500km away from Bangkok and can be reached from there by car in approximately eight hours. The field station at the park’s headquarter at Thung Ka Mung is about 45km from the park’s entrance on a dirt road. The project members live in two buildings with four rooms each with separate bathrooms and running water. Additionally, there are two smaller buildings with office and lab space as well as a kitchen and storage facilities for fuel and equipment.

Garage with car and motocycles at PKWS. Photo: Oliver Schülke
Garage with car and motocycles at PKWS. Photo: Oliver Schülke

Electricity is generated via a solar system and supplemented with a diesel generator running maximally four hours per day. A minus 20°C freezer is maintained via this system. For transportation within the park nine motorcycles are available. A four-wheel drive pick-up is used for the transport out of the park to stock up supplies, transport fuel for the generator and motorcycles as well as for the transport of samples from the park to Bangkok. 

Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary

Surroundings of the PKWS research station in Thailand. The field station is located within a wooded reserve. Photo: Brigham Whitman
Surroundings of the PKWS research station in Thailand. The field station is located within a wooded reserve. Photo: Brigham Whitman

The field station Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (PKWS) is located in the Chaiyaphum Province northeast of Thailand in the middle of a 6,500-square-kilometer conservation area of interconnected, protected forest (Western Isaan Forest Complex). PKWS itself covers 1,650 square kilometers of forested area and as a wildlife sanctuary it enjoys the highest protection status set by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation of Thailand. The vegetation in the PKWS is a mosaic of hill evergreen, dry evergreen and dipterocarp forest as well as bamboo stands. Local vegetation diversity is very high including over 150 tree and liana species. The forest harbors several large herbivores including elephants, gaur, banteng and sambar deer as well as carnivores such as dholes, jackals, tigers, leopards, clouded leopards and Asian golden cats. With eight species of nonhuman primates, primate species richness is also pronounced in the area given its altitude and latitude: in addition to Assamese macaques, the forest is home to northern pig-tailed macaques, rhesus monkeys, Phayre's leaf monkeys, lar gibbons and Sunda slow lori and likely stump-tailed macaques and silvery langurs.

Prof. Dr. Julia Ostner Head of Research Group +49 551 3933-925 +49 551 399-637 Contact