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The Trout, The Salamander
and The Frog

No, it's not a fairy story although they have brought good luck and better times to many people. The production and farming of trout, salamanders and frogs is carried out on one of H.M. King Bhumibol's Royal Projects which is located high on the slopes of Doi Inthanon Thailand's highest mountain, here in the Province of Chiangmai about 100 kilometers south of the city.

Trout especially Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) have been regularly featured on the menus of better hotels and restaurants. However, they are not native to Thailand so, any available, had to be imported from overseas. That is all changing thanks to the experts and staff at the Royal Project Trout Farm. Through a series of giant, rectangular ponds set into the ground, the trout are brought from fledgling stage to an adult size which is viable for the commercial market.

The first of the pond-series holds the largest, fully matured trout. These are the "breeders" and they are regularly "milked" for eggs and sperm to keep the production line going. The fertilized eggs are kept in rigidly controlled conditions and when the offspring are one month old they are placed in the production ponds. Excepting the "breeder" pond, the young fish are held in a pond for three months before being transferred to the next pond for a further three months and so on. Everything is done in 3 month cycles until the fish reach a marketable size. The most desired size is a fish of around 300 grams so there are approximately three trout to the kilo and a kilo fetches 360 Baht from the Bangkok buyers.

Of course, the breeding and farming of rainbow trout is a sensitive operation as the fish are only happy in a particular environment. The fresh, clean water running from the heights of Doi Inthanon is ideal. Constantly flowing water is needed for trout survival and H.M. the King personally designed a weir (kern Mao) which assists the flow and oxygenates the water. Pond temperatures (15 íC-18 íC) are constantly monitored. Feeding too is carefully controlled, at each stage of development, and this is done three times per days. Workers drawn from Doi Inthanon Hilltribes "caretake" all of the various procedures so this is another Royal Project which provides employment for local people.

Where do salamanders and frogs fit into the scheme of things? The Royal Project researchers also have a duty to preserve the native species of the natural environment. Salamanders are native to the area but they've had problems reproducing due to fungi attacking their eggs. So the trout farm staff "wash" the salamander eggs and care for the tiny babies until they are released back into the stream at the age of one year. As many as 2,000 per year are released. And there they eat more mosquitoes which makes everyone very happy.

Frogs also are partial to mosquitoes but they too are enjoyed as part of the diet for villagers who live on the mountain. Several frog species, all very tasty, are indigenous to Doi Inthanon. As part of the overall Royal Project, the researchers hatch the frog tadpoles and return around 20,000 healthy frogs, every year, to the wild.

So this is a story of "one hand washing the other" trout farming helps the Hilltribe villagers, the salamanders help the trout and the frogs help the environment. A Royal Project that cares for the people by giving them employment and a financial return while, similarly, taking care of nature. Not a fairy story but a happy fact for all concerned! Those who would like to buy trout from the Royal Project can call the RPO office at Suthep Road for more information.

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