Nam Et - Phou Louey National Protected Area (NEPL NPA) is located in northeastern Lao PDR inHouaphan, Luang Prabang and Xieng Kouang provinces and is the second largest protected area in the country with approximately 595,000 hectares. The topography is mostly mountainous with primary forest remaining in many areas and a high level of biodiversity that includes tiger, gaur, Sambar deer, otter and white-cheeked gibbon. The area represents the northern bookend of the Greater Annamites Mountain Range and has a variety of habitats ranging from the mixed deciduous forests of Phou Louey Mountain (2,257m) down to the lowland jungles of the Nam Et River. Many of the communities living around NEPL are ethnic Khmu and Hmong and receive approximately half of their food by harvesting wild plants and animals from the controlled-use zone of the protected area. NEPL offers one of the only opportunities in Lao PDR for tourists to view wildlife on its night safari.
- NEPL is the secondlargest protected area in Lao PDR
- Approximately half ofthe protected area is co-managed with local communities to sustainably harvestwild plants and meat and practice traditional agriculture
- NEPL has one of thelast tiger populations in Indochina
- There are five othercat species in addition to tigers including leopards, clouded leopard, Asiangolden cat, marbled cat and leopard cat.
- NEPL has the largest population of white-cheeked crested gibbon, whichis found only in Vietnam and Lao PDR.
- NEPL has the highest density of bears according to recent surveys
- Dhole is an endangeredspecies in NEPL that requires five times the area of a tiger
- Gaur is an endangeredspecies in NEPL that is the tiger’s preferred prey.
- There are 299 speciesof birds in NEPL.
NEPL is located in some of the poorest districts in the country and is home to 98 communities and 30,000 people who rely on its natural bounty for sustenance. Over-harvesting of wildlife and plants, agricultural encroachment, and potential mining and hydropower inside the core zone of the NPA threaten the long-term sustainability of the area to support its people. Lack of natural resource management systems in controlled use zones and low understanding among local people about conservation’s long-term benefits are undermining its sustainability. The challenge is, therefore, to develop management systems and build awareness among local people about conservation in order to improve the sustainable harvest of wild plants and animals for local use and provide local people with greater food security.
WCS conducts community-based research on the use of wildlife to help communities design methods for managing populations sustainably. WCS is training and supporting national protected area managers at NEPL to create a model for protected area management in the country. The team visits communities regularly to raise awareness about conservation and its long-term benefits for food security. WCS has partnered with district agriculture and livestock authorities to assist communities to improve livestock raising methods and reduce the conflict between humans and predators. Ecotourism is also being developed and promoted as an alternative livelihood that can benefit individual families and communities through village fund generationthat directly linked to ecosystem health. WCS is working with a host of agencies to pilot the reduction of deforestation to sell carbon credits in select communities.