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Biodiversity Safer inside Protected Areas

Laos is considered the most biodiversity-rich countries in Southeast Asia. However, continued practices of wildlife trade, overhunting and deforestation have endangered its biodiversity and ecosystems. The country’s 24 national protected areas (NPAs) are designed to conserve the country’s forest ecosystems and their animals and plants.
As such they are an important and effective tool to protect Laos’ valuable biodiversity. Hin Nam Nor National Protected Area, established in 1993 in Bualapha district, Khammuan province in central of Laos, is a good example. The 82,000-hectare Hin Nam Nor has been recognized as a site of global significance for biodiversity protection because of its natural landscape, unique geomorphologic formations of limestone karst, and a high diversity of animals and plants. The latter includes a number of globally threatened species, endemic species and karst specialist species.

Xe Bang Fai Cave, Hin Nam Nor National Protected Area, Khammuan Province. --Photo source: Lucas Wahl

Hin Nam Nor NPA is home to over 40 mammal species, over 200 bird species, 46 species of amphibians and reptiles, over 100 fish species, and more than 520 plant species. Many of these species are considered endangered or vulnerable not only in Laos but globally. Of these, ten mammal species, 13 bird species and six tortoise species are classified as globally threatened or globally near threatened. In particular, Hin Nam Nor NPA is home of seven species of primates, five of which are globally threatened. The Red-shanked Douc Langur and the Southern White-cheeked Gibbon are charismatic ‘flagship’ species. Other protected areas in Laos such as Nakai Nam Theun are home to at least 430 species of birds. This makes for 1/25th of all birth species in the world and as high a bird diversity as any nature reserve in Southeast Asia.
“National protected areas like Hin Nam Nor are crucial for biodiversity in the Lao PDR. NPA’s system functions as a safe haven where animals and plants can reproduce. Within a protected area, biodiversity can develop in a natural way, undisturbed by human influences”, says Jonas Ewert, Environmental Specialist of the GIZ Promotion of Climate-related Environmental Education (ProCEEd) project. “Animals may migrate to areas outside the NPA and help the respective species population grow. Often, NPAs are home to rare animal and plant species which is why they are particularly important. It’s essential that within an NPA biodiversity is protected”.
Currently, there are 24 NPAs across Laos established with three objectives including protection of forests, wildlife and water, maintenance of natural abundance and environmental stability, and protection of natural beauty for tourism and research. The NPAs currently cover about 3.4 million hectares or around 15 percent of the country’s land. Even though protected areas do benefit a broad range of species and are essential for biodiversity conservation, they have come under pressure from infrastructure development, unsustainable agricultural practices and hunting.
“To protect biodiversity, a framework of attitudes and regulations has to be set up. First of all, people living near an NPA should understand that everybody benefits from biodiversity as it provides clean water and air, soil which prevents flooding and a growing population of animals and plants. The government and the villagers together have to take care that the NPA regulations are respected. Hunting and logging is not allowed inside the NPA”, Jonas Ewert concludes. “Therefore, national and village rangers patrol the area and enforce the regulations. The number of active rangers should increase and they should be trained on a regular basis. Awareness raising on the fact that a healthy NPA safeguards the future of nearby villages and even the whole country is necessary to ensure that the NPAs and their biodiversity survive”.
Aside from its amazing biodiversity, Nin Nam Nor is one of the complex karst landforms on earth that have high geological diversity and many geomorphic features of global significance. This provides the area with one of the most stunning mountain sceneries and oldest large limestone karst formations in Southeast Asia. The Xe Bang Fai river cut a seven kilometre tunnel under the limestone karst of the Hin Nam Nor NPA, creating one of the largest active river cave passages in the world, holding many large and beautiful cave formations.
Hin Nam Nor NPA possesses outstanding universal values similar to those already recognised by UNESCO when inscribing Vietnam’s adjacent PhongNha-Ke Bang on the World Heritage List. The Lao PDR has submitted a proposal to UNESCO for a potential listing ofHin Nam Nor as the country’s first natural World Heritage site. In order to conserve the country’s rich biodiversity for the benefits of all species and Lao population, NPA system needs to be recognised and strongly supported by the government and all partners.
This article has been contributed by ProCEEd (Promotion of Climate-related Environmental Education), a project supported by the Federal Republic of Germany and implemented by the Deutsche GesellschaftfürInternationaleZusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

(Latest Update
June 8,2017 )

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