When discussing conservation and protection of the earth’s animals and plants the term “biodiversity hotspot” is often mentioned. But what does that actually mean, and why are these areas so important compared to other areas?

A biodiversity hotspot is a biographic region with significantly high levels of biodiversity that also meet two strict criteria:

1:The area must contain at least 1500 species of endemic vascular plants

2: The area has to have lost 70% of its primary vegetation

Now, watch this 2 minute movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaQBaVeEbW8

Around the world only 36 areas qualify under this definition- BUT these few sites support nearly 60% of the worlds plant, bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species with a very high share of those species endemic to those specific ares. An endemic species is a species that only live in a certain area and has adapted perfectly to that specific area, which is also why species in biodiversity hotspots are fragile- if the area the live in gets destroyed, the species go extinct.

Phyllomedusa Trinitatis tree frog endemic to Trinidad

The Indo-Burma region ranks among the world's top 10 "biodiversity hotspots”. As the plant and animal life here is so rich, diverse and perfectly adapted to the pristine forests they inhabit, these areas are also particularly susceptible to human encroachment like development, deforestation and fragmentation. The Indo-Burma Hotspot includes all non-marine parts of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, plus parts of southern China.

Humans make out only 0.001 % of all life, including bacteria (13 %), plants (82%), all other creatures like from insects to fungi to fish and animals make up just 5% on our planet. Even thoug we are an insignificant part of all life we humans have but have destroyed 83% of all wildlife on our planet so far- many of which come from these "biodiversity hotspots"

Biodiversity hotspots of South East Asia

The Huntsman spider is endemic to Indo Burma

NAM POUI - a biodiversity hotspot!

Nam Poui is located in Northwestern Laos, on the border of Thailand, and spans approximately 192,000 hectares. It is primarily covered by evergreen and bamboo forests.

Lao PDR once supported big populations of wild elephants and other wildlife iconic and endemic to southeast Asia. Sadly, few remain as habitat and forage for these giant mammals are shrinking as humans encroach on the habitat. Today Nam Poui is home to only 50-60 wild elephants- sadly the largest known population currently residing in the country. The few remaining elephants in Nam Poui are incredibly vulnerable to the threats of poaching forthe illegal ivory trade, illegal logging, exploitation for tourism and loss of habitat. Primarily, a result of inadequate resources and funding to properly manage and patrol its boundaries and protect the elephants. At Lao Elephant Initiative we want to fight for the remaining elephants in Nam Poui - we think this world would would be significantly poorer and much less esthetic without these majestic animals around.

Read more about our "Save the Nam Poui Elephants" conservation project on our homepage at :


Additional information:

Biodiversity Hotspots Explained : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaQBaVeEbW8

Biodiversity in the Mekong : https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/mekong-river-region-named-global-biodiversity-hotspot-by-wwf-after-367-new-species-are-discovered-in-9486539.html

Like an ancient story of a lost kingdom, hidden away and and landlocked between South East Asias largest roaring economies China, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, lies a small oasis, The Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos - the size of Kansas with 3 times as many residents.

Lao children helping with the field work

The Land Of a Million Elephants

Throughout Laos long, at at times dark, history it was in 1354 named Lan Xang – “The Land of a Million Elephants”- the reason for that was that the capital at that time was the Luang Prabang in the northern mountains of Laos. This part of the country had lush jungle and huge grazing fields which sustained massive herds of wild elephants- and these large strong animals were cough, trained and used largely as the principal engines of war and a main means of transportation for the Laos Royal Family back in ancient times. Yes, Laos was once home to many elephants which were also believed to be the sacred and bring prosperity to the country.

Lao war elephants going to the battle fields

The Land of a Million Bombs

Laos holds an unimaginable natural beauty that takes your breath away, but within this beauty you can almost sense that the country has not always been as peaceful as it looks. From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. The bombings were part of the U.S. Secret War in Laos to support the Royal Lao Government against the Pathet Lao and to interdict traffic along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The bombings destroyed many villages and displaced hundreds of thousands of Lao civilians during the nine-year period.

Up to a third of the bombs dropped did not explode, leaving Laos contaminated with vast quantities of unexploded ordnance (UXO). Over 20,000 people have been killed or injured by UXO in Laos since the bombing ceased. The wounds of war are not only felt in Laos. When the Americans withdrew from Laos in 1973, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled the country, and many of them ultimately resettled in the United States.

Lao is the most bombed country in history

Luang Prabang reflections of a dark past

Going into a brighter future

In more modern days, the wars and bombs have scared the elephants away, the loss of natural habitat the expansion of settlements, agriculture and industrial infrastructure, the trade of the ivory and the forests being cut down are some of the challenges elephants in Laos are facing and remaining populations in Laos is dwindling fast. Now, Laos only have about 700 elephants left in the wild – and only about 400 domesticated elephants. With an increase in demand for elephants by the logging industry, the animals become overworked and exhausted, and as a result cannot reproduce. So, there is therefore an urgent need to safeguard the remaining elephants.

Pinapple tops - an all time elephant-favorite food.

At Lao Elephant Initiative we work focused to help these few remaining elephants into a much brighter future. Our two projects aim to make life better for the captive elephants – and to help stabilize the remaining small population of wild elephants in Laos. Read more about out two projects here: insert links. If you enjoyed this blog post, share it with a friend!



1644 Platte St

Denver, CO 80202

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Instagram Icon

© 2019 by Lao Elephant Initiative.