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Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park, Lao PDR

Nam Et-Phou Louey (NEPL) National Park (NP) stands as the largest national park in Lao PDR, located in the captivating northern highlands of the country (1). This expansive park encompasses an area of 410,720 hectares, boasting lush mountainous forests. The National Park (NP) stretches across seven districts and three provinces, namely Houaphan, Laung Prabang, and Xieng Khouang provinces. The park derives its name from two significant landmarks, the Nam Et river, and the Phou Louey mountain range (2). Originally designated as a Protected Area (PA) in 1993, the Lao government later integrated the contiguous Nam Et PA and the Phou Louey PA into one bigger National Park, becoming the first of its kind in Lao PDR. The NEPL NP was the first of its kind in Lao PDR and serve as an important conservation area for environmental policy development in Laos (3).

 

According to the designation decree, the National Park was created “to manage and protect the environment, forest, forest resources, aquatic and wildlife species and watershed; to conserve the natural beauty, historical artifacts, culture for recreational use, tourism and scientific research to contributing to the improvement of livelihoods of the peoples and the socio-economic development through green and sustainable growth” (5).

The NEPL NP is divided into two zones: the Total Protection Zone (TPZ), where access is strictly forbidden, and the Controlled Use Zone (CUZ), where local communities are permitted to engage in subsistence activities3. Although approximately 91,500 people reside in 283 villages in and around the NEPL NP landscape (4) , the NEPL Management Plan highlights that approximately 44,500 people from 91 guardian villages directly benefit from the park's ecosystem services5. These services include providing land for agriculture, water for irrigation and drinking, wild food, and medicinal plants. Additionally, park-based activities such as ecotourism offer employment opportunities and a source of income for the local communities. The NEPL Landscape is also ethnically diverse and is home to 8 different ethnic groups with varying languages. The Khmu community is the dominant ethnic group making up for 40 %, which is followed by Hmong (28%), Lao (20%) and the rest are other ethnicities (5).

As a critical biodiversity conservation area in Southeast Asia, NEPL NP provides a vital habitat for the endangered Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)6. It is also home to rare and endangered wildlife species such as Dhole, Sun Bear, Samber Deer, whit cheeked gibbon, clouded leopard (7). The NEPL landscape ranks very high in the National Protected Areas system (NPAs) in Lao PDR and boasting highest biodiversity in northern highland of the country (5). A total of 17 globally threatened bird species and 20 mammal species have been recorded in the NP2.

Conservation activities and management of the NP primarily receive funding from Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Second Lao Environment and Social Projects (LENS 2) of the World Bank. The NEPL Management Unit, staffed by the Provincial Agricultural and Forestry Office, takes charge of the park`s management, while the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Lao implements the internationally funded projects within the PA4. Since 2013, the NEPL NP has received at least 8.83 million USD in external funding (4).

Ecotourism activities in the NP were initiated in 2009 to provide livelihood opportunities from conservation for the local communities (1).The ecotourism model is designed to encourage the protection of endangered wildlife species in the NP. Currently, 26 villages representing more than 2,000 households participate in ecotourism activities. Of which, 4 villages are directly involved in providing tour services to visitors of the NP. The ecotourism schemes generates benefits to local communities either through creation of alternative livelihood opportunities for the 4 villages with service provider groups or through broader community engagement from the Ecotourism Benefits Fund (EBF) (1).

REFERENCES:

  1. Nam Et-Phou Louey NP. https://laos.wcs.org/Saving-Wild-Places/NEPL.aspx.

  2. Johnson, A. A Landscape Summary for the Name Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area, Lao PDR. in Evidence-based conservation: lessons from the lower Mekong (eds. Sunderland, T. C. H., Sayer, J. & Minh-Ha, H.) 73–90 (Earthscan, 2012).

  3. Persson, J. et al. Large Differences in Livelihood Responses and Outcomes to Increased Conservation Enforcement in a Protected Area. Hum. Ecol. 49, 597–616 (2021).

  4. Persson, J., Mertz, O. & Nielsen, J. Ø. What makes a national park? Multiple environmentalities and politics of scale in governing Laos’ protected areas. Reg. Environ. Change 22, 134 (2022).

  5. Department of Forestry. Nam Et Phou Louey National Park Collaborative Management Plan: 10-YEAR STRATEGY (2022-2031). vol. 1 (Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Lao PDR, 2021).

  6. Saypanya, S., Hansel, T., Johnson, A., Bianchessi, A. & Sadowsky, B. Effectiveness of a social marketing strategy, coupled with law enforcement, to conserve tigers and their prey in Nam Et Phou Louey National Protected Area, Lao People’s Democratic Republic. (2013).

  7. Eshoo, P. F., Johnson, A., Duangdala, S. & Hansel, T. Design, monitoring and evaluation of a direct payments approach for an ecotourism strategy to reduce illegal hunting and trade of wildlife in Lao PDR. PLOS ONE 13, e0186133 (2018).

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