Since February 2018, IUCN has been working with local communities and government officials to extensively train patrol teams in three parts of Khammouan Province, in and around the Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area (NPA).
Conceptual training began in February. Trainees learned key theoretical concepts, including the basic principles of NPA management, international laws and agreements that relate to wildlife (such as CITES), and Lao Forestry Law and local regulations, including lists of species protected in Lao PDR. Trainees also learned practical techniques, including threat analysis and law enforcement; how to identify illegal or restricted activities in the protected areas; and how to properly gather evidence and utilise the legal system.
Patrol team trainees also learned administrative and management techniques, such as leadership and planning skills, with topics that included how to motivate patrol teams; how to make effective oral and written presentations; and how to conduct monthly team meetings, debriefs and field trips. To improve their forestry management skills, they were taught how to track priority animals and accurately record and report wildlife data, and how to use equipment such as compasses and maps, global positioning systems (GPS), and camera traps.
Throughout March, trainees were able to put their lessons into practice, through field patrol training inside the conservation area. Six officers from the District Agriculture and Forestry Office and 22 members of the communities around the NPA participated. Though these field trainings are quite treacherous during the dry season, when water is very scarce, it gives patrol teams the vital opportunity to practice the skills they learned during conceptual training. On one particularly successful excursion, the trainees were able to catch and detain two poachers operating within the NPA.
Peter Brakels, IUCN’s Biodiversity Coordinator in Lao PDR, said that the “patrol trainings are an excellent opportunity for team members to get real life experience working in the field, and for IUCN to see the knowledge we’ve imparted put to use.”
This training over the course of February and March strengthened the capacity of patrol teams in Phou Hin Poun to improve wildlife conservation and management in the NPA. They are now better equipped to catch poachers and others engaged in illegal activities, which may lead to a reduction in the amount of illegal activity in the future, and thus in the number of threats to the NPA’s wildlife. IUCN also hopes to build more partnerships with local communities and with international and national organisations for the management and conservation of Phou Hin Poun.