nature of ko tao
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Nature of Koh Tao

Discover through this post the nature of the island of Tao in Thailand with its flora and fauna.

Nature of Koh Tao – Flora 

Besides to be a touristic island where many activities are proposed, Koh Tao has a huge variety of forests where many animals live in.

Forests on Koh Tao consist on different types such as dry evergreen forest, mixed deciduous forest; dry evergreen forest with the “Koi Naam” tree and beach forest but the main forest is deciduous dipterocarp one. 

Deciduous dipterocarp forest

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Deciduous dipterocarp forests of the Dipterocarpaceae family dominate the vegetation.

Dry evergreen forests are found in Southeast Asian countries as Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. These forests are called semi-evergreen forest because of the percentage of canopy tree species whose deciduous trees belongs.

In southeast Indochina, regions are humid, with, each year, annual rainfall and a 3-month dry period. That can explain the predominance of semi-evergreen forests covered by a lot of deciduous dipterocarps or mixed deciduous forest in these ecoregions. The canopy of these forests is particularly high; trees can reach about 30-40 meters. Dipterocarps are the main tree of the forest structure and form emergent tree canopies with such as Dipterocarps Alatus and many other species.

Semi-evergreen forests provide refuge to large mammals and a huge source of food and water for a wide variety of wildlife especially during the periods of dry seasons.

Dipterocarps Alatus (photo) is one of the species of Dipterocarpaceae family can be exactly found in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Nature of Ko Tao

Cycad is ancient plants from the Jurassic period during which they were more abundant than today. Since the Jurassic, cycad changed little compared to other species, and they exist 3 families of cycads such as Cycadaceae, Stangeriaceae and Zamiaceae.

Those plants are found in southern of Koh Tao.

Cycads are gymnosperms that is mean their naked seeds are open to the air to be directly fertilized by pollination while angiosperms have a different reproduction. Concerning gymnosperms, they are ancient seed plants with many extinct species but four major groups are still living today which are Cycads (Cycadophyta), Gnetophyta, the conifers (Pinophyta) and Ginkgo (Ginkgophyta).

Cycads are relatives to the Ginkgoales (plant order) in which there is the only extant species: Gingko Biloba.

About the Cycads – Structure

Nature of Ko Tao

The individual plant is either all male that are producing cones filled in with pollen or all female that are producing seeds. They are completely separated which means cycads are dioecious plants.

This plant vary in size, they can be high or small, and also, they grow slowly and live longer. Indeed, some of the specimens are known to be 1’000 years old.

They have a ligneous cylindrical trunk with a crown of large evergreen leaves at the top that grows directly from the trunk in a basal rosette form. Sometimes, leaves are larger than the trunk but normally they have the same proportions. In addition, leaves have a pinnate structure.

Cycads are found especially in subtropical and tropical areas around the world and the greatest diversity occurs in Central and South America.

Pemphis acidula

Nature of Ko Tao

Pemphis acidula is another species we find in Koh Tao. It is an angiosperm from the Lythraceae family. In this family, there is genus Pemphis and in this genus, there are only two species in which Pempis acidual belongs to. This plant grows in waters of high salinity that is mean it is a halophyte plant. Most of Pemphis plants are living in sandy and calcareous soils of the littoral zones of the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean.

The flowers of this species are pollinated by bees and the result of this pollinisation is a fruit which is produced throughout the year. Seeds of the fruit can float, and so, are propagated via water. About leaves, they can be small, fleshy and succulent, or larger, flat and not fleshy. All surfaces are covered with trichomes, which little structures that allow plants to protect itself.  The wood of this species is hard and heavy and uses for many things such as walking canes, and also fence posts.

Nature of Koh Tao – Fauna 

On this island, you can find diverse fauna among which there are the White Bellied Sea Eagle, the Nicobar Pigeon, and the Koh Tao Caecillian that are part of it.

White Bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

Nature of Ko Tao

This eagle is a protected animal, and so it is no common to see it in the wild. He is a resident of different coastal habitats in India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Indochina, Philippines, Southern China), and Australia.

The White Bellied Sea Eagle is a monogamous pair, and stay together for life, but after dead, the surviving bird seeks another mate. They may live for up to 30 years and at around 6 years old, they are capable of breeding. Between male and female, there is a similar appearance but females tend to be larger than males.

He consumes a wide variety of aquatic animals such as fishes, water birds, marine turtles, and sea snakes. This is in flight they consume their prey, but prefer to feed itself on a platform. In addition, they also prey on land mammals and eat carrion (the flesh of a dead animal), and are also known to steal prey from other birds. This specie feed either alone, in pairs, or in family.

Several programs have been proposed to help to conserve this bird by minimizing human disturbance around nest sites.

Dipterocarpus Alatus is the home tree to this specie of eagle.

Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica)

Nature of Ko Tao

This is a pigeon found on small islands in coastal regions from the Nicobar Islands situated on the northwest of Sumatra Island until to Solomon and Palau Islands situated in the Philippines.

This pigeon is monogamous, as White Bellied Sea Eagle. He stays with the same partner all his life. In this species of pigeon, this is the female that is smaller than the male; she can be distinguished by a white iris, that is not the case for the male which has a brown eye as juveniles.

He prefers to breed in dense territories on small, wooded, offshore islands, and he is found at elevation up to at least 500 metres. There is a huge availability of food which consists of seeds, fruits, large nuts, and insects that he forages all day on the forest floor. Also, he has no predators what explain the bright plumage that he has developed, making it one of the most beautiful species among pigeons and doves.

The female lays a white egg, that is incubated by both adults, and after two and a half weeks, the eggs hatch. The chick is fed with a rich crop milk fluid for three months until they fledge.

Ko Tao caecilian (Ichthyophis Kohtaoensis)

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This is species of amphibian in the Ichthyophiidae family found in Cambodia, Laos,  Myanmar, Thailand and in Vietnam. Its natural habitats are the subtropical or tropical moist forest, rivers,… of these countries.

He was found, for the first time, on Koh Tao Island, that explains where his scientific name comes from.

This is an amphibian, and so, generally, these animals feed earthworms found in soil. They live beneath the ground in soil and decompose vegetation.

Their yellow strips down the side indicate to potential predators that they have toxic skin.

The female lay her eggs near the water source and stay with them until they hatch. When it is time, babies go to the water where they pass through an aquatic larval stage before metamorphosing into an adult.


Scientific glossary 

Dioecious: A colony contains distinct male and female individual organism.

Pinnate: This is a plant in which leaves are opposite on the same axis.

Angiosperm:  Angiosperm means a plant that produces seeds within an enclosure.

Halophyte: It is a plant that grows in water of high salinity. It has contact with waters through its roots.

Trichomes: they are found on plant and are useful to protect the plant against predators such as insects.

Travel info

Travel Info 

I travelled in  May 2013, February 2016, September 2018

Where: Ko Tao 

Country: Thailand 

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