Illegal hunting and logging threatens unique Protected Area in Lao PDR

26 May 2009 | Project description

IUCN Lao is working with local authorities and communities to protect the unique landscape and wildlife of Hin Namno in Central Lao PDR.  

The limestone hills of the Hin Namno National Protected Area (NPA) rise dramatically out of the flat land east of Khammuan Province’s capital, Thakkek. A 4-5 hour drive from Thakkek, Him Namno is one of Lao PDR’s more remote NPAs, located on the border with Vietnam and directly south of the larger and more well-known Nakai Nam Theun NPA.

The Hin Namno area hosts a diverse population, including Lao Loum and ethnic minority communities in villages scattered in and around the NPA, as well as a number of endemic and endangered species of animals and plants. It is home to many primates including Douc langurs, Francois’ langurs, Assamese macaques, Stump-tailed macaques, Rhesus macaques and white-cheeked gibbons. Indochinese serow, Black giant squirrels, Pangolin, Hornbills and Sambar can be found in the area as well.

Hin Namno is also marked by bomb craters and unexploded ordinance continues to be found, a legacy of the bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which crossed in and out of Lao PDR.

As a unique landscape, a home to numerous villages, a wildlife refuge and a potential natural World Heritage site, Hin Namno is a priority for the joint conservation and development efforts of the local authorities, local communities, IUCN Lao and other organizations.

However, Hin Namno is also a landscape under threat.  A recent IUCN monitoring mission provided alarming evidence of the impact of activities such as hunting and small scale logging along the Lao-Vietnam border.

As part of a two-year project funded by the Lao Environment and Social Project (LEnS) through the Lao Environment Protection Fund, UNESCO and IUCN, IUCN Lao has organized a series of stakeholder consultations at the provincial and district levels, as well as a biodiversity and threat monitoring mission in April 2009. To carry out the monitoring, four teams made up of local officials and villagers spent several days surveying the forest for evidence of wildlife and threats such as hunting, illegal logging and other human disturbance.

In the survey area closest to the Vietnamese border, barely any wildlife was encountered, while tree stumps also indicate that illegal logging is occurring.

Consistent with recent research on the distribution, behavior and threats of Red-shanked douc langurs and other primates in Hin Namno, the growing demand for wildlife products and timber in Vietnam, and in larger markets such as China, is driving the illegal wildlife trade in border areas. This research further reveals that Vietnamese traders come weekly to collect wildlife from hunters, particularly in villages like Khet Ban Dou. Evidence of wildlife smuggling has also been found in Khet Nongping.

If no wildlife trade and hunting controls are put in place, many populations of endangered wildlife species will continue to decrease.

The LEnS project is funding attempts to address the threats to Hin Namno by raising public awareness of the importance of the protected area as a foundation for better enforcement of rules and regulations. Working with local officials and villagers in and around the NPA, IUCN is continuing to carry out consultations to get a better understanding of the root causes of problems like illegal logging and hunting, and to find ways to address these problems.

A co-management plan for the NPA is also under preparation to ensure that the area is managed in a way that meets the objectives of both conservation and improved incomes for local people.