flora & fauna

Despite government attempts to stop them, armed poachers still run unchecked, with much of the illicit trade controlled by organized Chinese gangs. Forestry rangers are paid very little (although they are allowed to keep any bullets fired into them) and struggle to protect often vast areas of forest. A recent scheme to boost numbers has involved prisoners on death row being offered a reprieve from the firing squad if they agree to work for six months as a forest ranger. At the time of writing no one had accepted the offer.

Years of warfare and civil unrest have left their mark on Phaic Tan and until recently its floral emblem was defined as ‘any shrub that could provide cover during an ambush’. These days the official flower is of course the wilting orchid (left), known officially as Suahm in honour of Her Majesty the Queen with whom it is said to share many qualities, such as beauty, grace and difficulties retaining moisture. Other indigenous species include the Flowering Bok Choy (also known as Bok Chulip) and the Brocconvillea.

Much of Phaic Tan is covered in dense jungle except in the slightly drier north eastern regions where rainforest gives way to drizzle forest. Here you’ll find a bewildering variety of exotic plants, including the massive sahthien pine, renowned as one of the few trees in the world to shed not just leaves but entire branches.


As with its plant life, Phaic Tan’s bloody past has certainly taken its toll on its animal inhabitants, with dozens of species all but wiped out in armed conflict. Some have managed to survive by adapting, such as the wild Buaktong goats of the east which – after decades of border skirmishes – have actually developed bullet-proof hides. Sadly, though, many creatures are under threat of extinction, in particular monkeys, elephants, wild cattle and environmental activists. Breeding programs currently exist for several endangered species unique to Phaic Tan, such as the magnificent spotless leopard, the rarely sighted buck-toothed tiger and the myopic owl, a bird so short-sighted it has been known to swoop on ceramic cats.

Phaic Tan is home to one of the world’s highest number of near-extinct species. Amongst those creatures not sighted in decades are:
> The Stuttering Parrot
> The Thinning Lion – one of the few felines ever recorded whose mane requires a comb-over.
> The Bow-legged Asian Elephant
> The Lanky Pelican (Pelicanus aneorexicus)
> The Hunch-backed Rhino
>The Long-haired Turtle