11 July 2024

Rueangrit Promdam has a passion for caves and all forms of life therein. That is why, several years ago, he chose to become a speleologist, or cave researcher, at the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Natural History Museum at the Prince of Songkhla University in Thailand’s Hat Yai.

In a recent talk with Thai PBS, during Science Week, he spoke about his cave exploration and research. Rueangrit said that he has explored more than 300 caves across the country and described each adventure as a search for treasures in the dark.

His tools of the trade include his boots, a flashlight, a water-proof camera, test-tubes to collect specimens, a net to catch fish and crabs and a small shovel.

He said he normally spends 3-4 hours inside a cave, but may spend longer if it means a greater chance of finding more species. His specialty is invertebrates, like crabs.

He cited one exploration when he found the remains of a rare long-legged crab. Then he continued the search, hoping to find a living specimen, but to no avail. He returned to the same cave five times and, finally, found a living specimen.

Searching a cave to look for life forms is very challenging, he said, adding that, in every corner or every square inch or under a creek, some animal species may be hiding and catching them requires skill, because various methods have to be used.

Traps are used to catch bats and rodents, nets to catch fish and insects, suction tubes to catch small insects and a shovel is used to dig for crabs, he explained.

Two years ago, Rueangrit joined a team to explore caves in the Satun geo-park, in the Thung Wa district of the southern border province of Satun, which was funded by the National Science and Technology Development Agency.

He said he was responsible for the invertebrates and his team found several rare species of crab, including the limestone crab, called Terrapotamon thungwa, and an endangered species of bat only found in Thailand. More than 300 species were found during that expedition.

Rueangrit said that the finding of new and rare species in caves arouses public interest in caves, which can help promote eco-tourism for those who like adventure.