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Community Rangers - Heroes of the Unique Limestone Karst Forest in Laos

Hin Nam Nor National Protected Area, situated in the Bualapha District of Khammuan Province, is one of the last remaining wilderness karst areas in Southeast Asia. Hin Nam Nor is a global treasure for its complex and spectacular Karst landscape and its variety of habitats that supports a high biodiversity including plants and animals that are endangered worldwide. Like other protected areas, Hin Nam No is threatened by illegal logging and poaching. Community rangers from nearby villages are recruited to prevent these illegal activities.

Currently, there are 116 rangers from 18 villages. Born and raised in Dou Village near Hin Nam Nor National Pr otected Area (NPA), Phet Xayphachan is one of them. He feels blessed to be able to give something back to nature by working in the research and patrolling team, which is part of Hin Nam Nor co-ma nagement system.

Co-managment Committee's activity planning workshop at the Hin Nam Nor management office in Bualapha.

This system to a large extent relies on the skills and knowledge of local people in order to ensure adequate management of the area. “Our strong ownership in protecting wildlife means there is less poaching and trafficking of animals in our NPA,” is Phet's way of putting it.

Like most village or community rangers, Phet is a police man who patrols the protected area on a regular basis. His and his colleagues' main role is to safeguard and protect the biodiversity and natural resources in the Nat ional Protected Area.

“The community rangers should have a sense of ownership and commitment in preserving natural resources and ensure sustainability”, states Nitpakone Sisoulasack, a biodiversity advisor to the GIZ Hin Nam Nor co-management team which closely cooperates with the Provincial Office for Agriculture and Forest (PAFO) in Khamm uan.

Therefore, all rangers are trained so they gain the basic knowledge on biodiversity, NPAs, wildlife and forest laws as well as in the use of equipment such as camera traps, GPS, maps and compasses.

Under a thick tree canopy and the stunning limestone Karst mountains, Phet along with a group of ranger regularly walk with a pack of equipment. Apart from patrolling, the rangers undertake research and monitoring on biodiversity using camera traps and GPS in order to collect data. They patrol a specific area of the forest for approximately five days at a time, removing snares and deterring wildlife traffickers and loggers. Managed by the co-management committee, the villagers serve as guardians who enforce the law with respect to illegal loggers and poachers.

During their patrols, Phet an d his team were confronted with poachers and illegal loggers. Sometimes the team was able to arrest them and enforce the payment of fines. “Compared to previous years, I observed that the number of poachers and illegal loggers has been reduced. Once we saw some of them. We arrested them, brought them t o our village and send them to the Provincial Police Station”, Phet proudly declares.

The community rangers are paid for their work. This helps generate additional income opportunities for villagers.

T he project implemented by PAFO and GIZ has also helped villagers find value in their natural heritage. It not only supports village families directly but also boosts ecotourism which attracts tourists who generate additional income to communities in or near the NPA.

The rangers' tasks are not easy. There are border-related challenges when foreign loggers and poachers enter Laos for illegal activities. But what Phet and his colleagues complain about is just the many mosquitoes during the rainy season and the shortage of water during the dry season. “We are not scared of the poachers or loggers. We can fight and we are trained to fight them,” claims Phet.

Phet mentioend that the rangers could save a number of wi ld animals during their patrols, including red-shanked Douc Langur, Serow, and civets that were stuck in snares or captured by the poachers. The rangers released the wild animals into the fo rest where they belong.

“Though it's hard and tir ing work, I am honored and happy to be part of this work. I will keep up my good work and continue with full dedication and commitment towards the protection of Hin Nam No”, said Phet. In 2016, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) tentatively listed the Hin Nam Nor NPA as Laos' first natural World Heritage Site.

The work of the rangers is extremely important to acquire baseline data on biodiversity which is needed for the nomination.

Yet, the rangers need fur ther training to be able to protect the rich biodiversity and natural resources in this rem arkable National Protected Area in the long run. Phet, the hero on the ground, will continue working as a ranger and protecting the environment in Hin Nam Nor for his c hildren's and grandchildren's generation. “The work we do is actually for everyone, especially for our children because we all rely on natural resources for food and medicine,” Phet added.

Do you know that the community rangers...

… are now also setting up camera traps as part of the monitoring and research program of HNN NPA: https://www.giz.de/en/worldwide/45362.html ?

… have monitored 6327 kilometers of trails in Hin Nam No NPA 2012 ?

… have collected 2844 snares set up by illegal poachers in Hin Nam No NPA in the last 5 years?

... have recorded 9051 individuals of wildlife belonging to 68 species during their patrols in the Hin Nam No NPA ?

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update August 3, 2017)

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