Nam Phoui National Biodiversity Conservation Area
Nam Poui NBCA is located in Northwestern Laos, on the border of Thailand, and spans approximately 192,000 hectares. It is primarily covered by mixed deciduous, evergreen and bamboo forests. Due to limited access and low population density around its borders, much of this forest remains intact and unaffected by logging and slash and burn agriculture.
Lao PDR once supported healthy populations of elephants and other wildlife iconic to southeast Asia. In an effort to preserve these populations the government established 21 National Biodiversity Conservation Areas, intending to protect what are now endangered species. Sadly, few remain as viable habitat for elephants as Nam Poui NBCA, which is home to 50-60 wild elephants, the largest population residing in the country. Although the NBCA’s elephant population appears to be reasonably stable, The elephants in Nam Poui are incredibly vulnerable to the threats of poaching, illegal logging and loss of habitat. Primarily a result of inadequate resources and funding to properly manage and patrol its boundaries.
Concession and Conservation
Partnering with MandaLao Elephant Conservation, LEI plans to raise funds to manage a concession in the center of Nam Poui NBCA. The area identified as the “core zone” for Nam Poui flora and fauna. The total size is approximately 46,373 hectares. The western boundary follows a track controlled by the military which traverses the park from north to south. The eastern boundary follows the current border of Nam Poui NBCA. The northern and southern boundaries have been mapped out by foot and created to utilize the natural landscape as a border by taking advantage of ridgelines and other physical barriers as stopping points.
In addition to this area being identified as the "core zone," it also offers the most significant opportunity for ecotourism development, with easy access to the village of Ban Vangphamone. All excursions will begin from this small community that sits on the edge of the NBCA and the banks of the Nam Phoun river. Since most villagers in Ban Vanphamone know the area and its forest well and are eager to find new sources of income, we may easily find the staff to help run the project. This would further deepen community support for the project and help aid in our goals for wildlife conservation.
Our responsibility for the concession area will be to ensure its protection from poaching, illegal logging or any other threats to the NBCAs natural resources. In addition, we will develop and implement quality conservation management strategies with the cooperation of the World Wildlife Funds (WWF) current work within the NBCA.
50,000 hectares is an enormous area for a concession. On average wild Asian elephants walk 12 to 17km per day. In order for them to be adequately protected, they need a vast area of suitable habitat. It’s imperative we have the habitat to support, and capacity to patrol to ensure the safety of the elephants as they will be the main draw for ecotourism to the NBCA. This region of the NBCA offers just that, and the revenue generated will help fund Nam Poui NBCA staff in other areas of the park.
Increasing the population
The first step in increasing a population of elephants, or any other species, is to make sure their habitat is protected. Currently, its estimated that there are 50-60 wild elephants in our proposed concession area in Nam Poui. However, this area could and should support at least double that, 100+ elephants.
Our Nam Poui Project will do the following:
Support WWF Patrol efforts to help crack down on illegal poaching and confiscation of other resources;
Give us a controlled, safe area to re-introduce captive elephants back into the wild, a critical piece of our captive elephant project that we plan to implement;
Give local communities additional employment to ensure they don’t seek alternative means of income and survival, such as helping capture elephants to bring to zoos and safari parks, which has led to the loss of 38 (documented) elephants to date.
Eco-Tourism and Consevation
Through our partnership with MandaLao Elephant Conservation, we plan to support ecotourism activities in the park as a nonprofit and plan to reinvest revenue directly back to protection and conservation measures in Nam Poui NBCA.
Ecotourism plans include a variety of trekking and observation opportunities that will assist current Nam Poui NBCA patrol teams and enhance conservation strategies. Our goal is to develop a sustainable ecotourism model that will protect Nam Poui for generations to come.
The projected total cost of this project is approximately $1,000,000. The estimate includes acquiring the concession in Nam Poui, securing the land for up to 60 years, and building out the facilities and teams for our ecotourism and conservation program.
Our model will allow the NBCA to generate the income needed to support its protection for generations to come. In total, we will acquire nearly 50,000 hectares of pristine jungle and animal habitat. We have the ability to protect this area and properly manage it for just under $20 per hectare. Any contribution made will go directly into the preservation of this land and the wildlife that call it home, while simultaneously benefiting surrounding communities and the local economy.
The application process with the Loa Government is completed in several stages. In the immediate short term, we are looking to raise $150,000 to lock in our exclusive right to the concession and remove all risk of a commercial entity, such as a mining organization, coming in and laying claim over Nam Poui.