Lao PDR

Lao Kids Photo
The Lao population lives in rural areas, practice small-scale agriculture, and rely on wildlife as a source of animal protein or as a means to meet economic needs.
©E. Briggs
Lao River Photo
Loss of habitat poses an additional strain on remaining wildlife populations making conservation of pristine forests of utmost importance.
©E. Briggs
Malayan Tiger Photo
The Indochinese tiger is present throughout the forested areas of Lao PDR, although the populations are small.
Julie Larsen Maher©WCS

With a high level of biodiversity, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic encompasses some of the most significant forest areas remaining in Southeast Asia. However, the combined loss of forest cover (estimated at nearly 55 percent) and over-exploitation of wildlife populations pose significant threats to species including the tiger, gibbon, Asian elephant, and crocodile, among others. Nearly two-thirds of the Lao population live in rural areas, practice small-scale agriculture, and rely on wildlife as a source of animal protein or as a means to meet economic needs.

Fast Facts

  • Lao PDR harbors one of the largest remaining populations of Asian elephants in Indochina, primarily in the Nakai Plateau.
  • Of the three subspecies of Eld’s deer occurring in Southeast Asia, one is found in Lao PDR and is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
  • The western black crested gibbon is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered gibbon species and is over-hunted for food.
  • The Indochinese tiger is present throughout the forested areas of Lao PDR, although the populations are small.
  • The Bolikhamxay Ecosystem and Wildlife Project works in ever-wet forests and limestone karst (a type of stone surface that can be part of forests, caves, and a wide range of other environments) that are home to many recent wildlife discoveries.

Challenges

The greatest conservation challenges in Lao PDR are the domestic and international wildlife trade and unsustainable hunting for subsistence consumption. Some of the country’s most charismatic species, such as tigers, are heavily targeted by poachers. Because their own prey has been depleted, the tigers sometimes resort to killing livestock, which leads to conflicts with rural communities. Loss of habitat poses an additional strain on remaining wildlife populations, and researchers are still working to understand the ecology and distribution of the animals facing the greatest threat. Therefore, the role of threatened species in the forest ecosystem and the impacts their loss could have on forest ecology are difficult to predict. Rice field expansion and poaching pose significant threats to many species and their habitats, especially because most wildlife populations are very small.

WCS Responds

WCS conducts scientific surveys of wildlife populations to determine abundance and works with rural communities to reduce the causes and effects of poaching and habitat loss. In urban centers, WCS collaborates with the Lao government to raise public awareness concerning the problems with wildlife trade and assess wildlife loss, habitat destruction, and human-animal conflict. Our field staff has helped establish baseline biodiversity status reports, Important Bird Areas, and developed effective conservation strategies for the Asian elephant, Eld’s deer, western black crested gibbon, Siamese crocodile, and tiger. WCS researchers also monitor tiger numbers in a protected area along the Laos-Vietnam border, where commercial poaching has depleted prey populations and increased competition between large carnivores.

From the Newsroom

Head Start for Critically Endangered CrocsFebruary 21, 2013

WCS and partners in Lao PDR have collaborated to reintroduce 19 critically endangered Siamese crocodiles to the wild. Next month, a public ceremony will commemorate their repatriation.

Conservation Out of a ShellSeptember 1, 2011

Conservationists in Lao PDR help 20 rare Siamese crocodile hatchlings emerge from their shells at the Laos Zoo, where they will live until they are mature enough to be released back into the wetlands of Savannakhet Province.

Wild Tiger Report CardFebruary 17, 2010

As the world celebrates the Year of the Tiger, WCS assesses tiger habitat and populations across eight priority landscapes in Asia with a color-coded report.

A Song from the SkyDecember 21, 2009

WCS helps discover the limestone leaf warbler, a small yellow bird with a distinctive call, in Laos. The bird’s home in the Southeast Asian country’s limestone region has become known as a treasure trove of new species.

The Latest from Laos: Bald-Faced FlyerJuly 30, 2009

In a rugged region of Laos increasingly known for unusual wildlife discoveries, WCS scientists and their colleagues find a new “bald” songbird, dubbed the bare-faced bulbul.

More

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