February 15, 2016
Boarder controls in the kingdom are fighting a losing battle as more and more aliens sneak into the country
Did you know there are over 1,000 alien species of fish, reptiles, plants, and animals that now call Thailand home?
Thailand’s at times unwanted aliens also include many mammals we may not have considered as aliens, including rabbits, cats, goats, mice, rats and pigs, the feral populations of which wreak havoc on native Thai ecosystems.
That said a good number have brought with them multiple benefits from the ornamental gold fish who were first introduced around the 18th Century to many other exotic aquatic species of fish and shellfish that have followed. Many fish were intentionally introduced for varying purposes, including for food and for mosquito control.
The Good News
The main reason for introducing exotic species is for social and economic benefit, especially for aquaculture. Positive or beneficial aspects of exotic species include: FOOD SECURITY. Exotic species now contribute more than 63% of freshwater fish production in Thailand.
In 2001; fisheries statistics show that Thai people consume 28.8 kg of fish per capita, of which 41.6% was from exotic species. Nile tilapia (ปลานิล – Plā nil) and its strains make the highest contribution, followed by hybrid walking catfish (several million of which are released annually for merit making) and the common carp. Up to 1,000 exotic species have been imported for the Thai aquarium trade. Many species have been bred and improved into famous breeds for the global market, such as discuss, oscar, guppy and others.
Two ornamental fish species were introduced for mosquito control in Thailand; the guppy Poe cilia reticulate (also known as millionfish and rainbow fish) and mosquito fish Gambusia affinis, both of which have a high tolerance to polluted water and come from South and Central America respectively, while others are utilized for algae control in brackish water shrimp ponds.
The Not So Good News
It’s not all good news as some exotic species have become invasive alien species (IAS) to Thailand, with several carnivorous fish and amphibians causing population decline in indigenous species, it would also appear most alien species can adapt quicker and have a higher tolerance to habitat change, which makes them better at competing with native species, in both foraging and securing spawning grounds. It is also reported certain species carry disease which can wreak havoc on their indigenous cousins.
This alien invasion is not just about marine life, among the world’s 205 invasive plants 71 exist in Thailand. They include 15 aquatic plants, 10 grasses, 6 herbs, 2 palms, 23 shrubs/trees, 13 vine/climbers and 2 shrubs/climbers.
The Not so Pleasant Alien Creatures
The biggest of the alien Fauna roaming the Kingdom are the Caiman Crocodile, (males generally reach 2.0 m to 2.5 m) whose normal habitat is in South America, they are not the only large amphibians to take up residency here in Thailand we are now home to the larger, mainly nocturnal New Guinea Crocodile, which is native to Papua New Guinea and where the male can grow up to a length of 3.5 m.