Wildlife Conservation Ecotourism in Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park, Lao PDR

WCS/NEPL NP
Published: 01 November 2021
Last edited: 01 November 2021
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Summary

The Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park (NEPL NP) is one of the largest and most biodiverse protected areas in Laos. At the same time, more than 30,000 people from 91 village, representing multiple ethnic groups located within some of the poorest districts of the country, are living inside or immediately adjacent to the NEPL NP.

 

To provide livelihood opportunities for local people and to safeguard the national park’s wildlife biodiversity and ecosystems on which communities rely on, the NEPL NP begun wildlife ecotourism program in 2010. 

 

The NEPL NP ecotours have been designed in a way to create a direct link between conservation and tourism so that the money generated by visitors acts as an incentive for the local communities working in tourism and living around the ecotourism area to protect wildlife. This is achieved through both direct employment in the ecotourism service provider groups, and through a wider financial incentive system to the surrounding communities based on their conservation efforts.

Classifications

Region
Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
Subnational
Ecosystem
Forest ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Tropical deciduous forest
Tropical evergreen forest
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Theme
Access and benefit sharing
Gender mainstreaming
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Poaching and environmental crime
Protected and conserved areas governance
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Tourism
Traditional knowledge
Other theme
conservation argeements
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Risk communication, community engagement and behaviour change
Challenges
Ecosystem loss
Poaching
Lack of technical capacity
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 3: Incentives reformed
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 16: Access to and sharing benefits from genetic resources
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge

Location

Houaphanh, Laos | Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park

Challenges

The NEPL NP is affronting numerous threats and challenges. The main direct drivers of habitat loss and poaching in NEPL NP are:

  • Unsustainable and/or illegal timber extraction,
  • Unsustainable and/or illegal infrastructure development (roads, hydropower, mining and etc),
  • Local and regional demand for bush meat and rare animal parts, and
  • High poverty.

These threats paired with the continuous pressure of economic growth further increases the weight on wildlife and the natural habitat of NEPL NP.

Beneficiaries

  • More than 150 ecotourism service provider households,
  • 26 communities around NEPL NP ecotourism sites,
  • Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park,
  • Government,
  • Entrepreneurs (hotels, restaurants, shops, travel agents).

How do the building blocks interact?

The NEPL NP’s (1) “Ecotourism Benefit Fund” agreement with the communities surrounding the ecotourism area is the key pillar to create a direct link between ecotourism and wildlife conservation. The (2) “Ecotourism service provider contracts” ensure transparency and equity in the ecotourism service provider selection process and tourism revenue distribution in the village. The (3) “Local Capacity Building and Awareness Raising” is essential to develop a strong team in long-term and ensure support by the decision makers and public. Regardless, (4) “Law Enforcement” presence is essential in wildlife tourism areas, as simply developing wildlife tourism does not automatically lead to a reduction of threats or improved levels of wildlife protection. To ensure increasing visitor arrivals, (5) “Marketing and collaboration with tourism private sector” is essential for tourism products located in remote areas. Finally, (6) “Monitoring and Adaptive Management” is indispensable to ensure the project's sustainability and positive conservation and socio-economic outcomes.

Impacts

  • Wildlife Conservation: Significant conservation benefits through a decrease in threats and a measurable increase in wildlife sightings. The average wildlife sightings on the Nam Nern Night Safari wildlife spotting tour have increased from 4 animals only in 2010 to 11 animals in average per tour in 2021.
  • Livelihoods: Additional livelihood opportunities for more than 150 households in 4 villages. 40% of the ecotourism service providers are women and 30% are younger than 30 years old.
  • Wide benefit sharing. 26 villages representing more than 2’000 households receive financial incentives based on the seen wildlife by visitors on the NEPL NP ecotours, - representing almost 30% of all NEPL NP villages, and mostly Khmu and Hmong ethnic minority groups. In addition, the NEPL NP ecotourism program generates financial benefits for the National Park, tourism entrepreneurs and government.
  • Education: Continuous educational and skill development opportunities to multiple stakeholder groups (communities, visitors, government) as well as a positive education environment for NEPL NP ecotourism staff.
  • Positive International Exposure: Through various awards and visibility in the leading media, the NEPL NP ecotourism program creates positive international exposure to the country.

Story

WCS/NEPL NP

Traditionally wildlife is valuable to the NEPL NP communities, but only once the animal is captured or killed as then the animal can be sold to earn additional income for the household or can be consumed to feed the family. With the increasing domestic and regional demand for bush meat and rare animal parts and growing human population, this is no longer a sustainable practice.

 

To overcome this challenge, the NEPL NP introduced ecotourism as an alternative source of revenue to hunting. However, tourism, particularly in remote-low tourism areas, has its limitations as not all community members can be employed in tourism or in the related sectors.

 

To create a wide community support to conservation and to share the tourism revenue, the Ecotourism Benefit Fund (EBF) was introduced by NEPL NP. Though the EBF, the NEPL NP not only delivers to the villages surrounding the ecotourism area a fixed amount of money for every tourist going on the tour, but an additional amount is provided depending on the numbers and type of wildlife encountered by the visitors on the tour. To encourage conservation efforts, greater incentives are provided for sightings of species with higher conservation importance.

 

In the beginning, when NEPL NP began the ecotourism program in 2010, many ecotourism service providers attempted to enjoy both revenue opportunities: ecotourism and hunting. Consequently, the respective individuals received a warning or their contract was terminated, and their village’s annual EBF was reduced. This was a valuable lesson learned to others.

 

With increasing visitor arrivals, grew also the community revenue from ecotourism services and EBF. Consequently, more households became interested in ecotourism and were willing to comply with the national park regulations. The former household members who violated the regulations could re-apply for the ecotourism positions if their record was clean for more than 2 years. Now, 10 years later, more than 150 households in 4 villages work as ecotourism service providers (wildlife spotters, boatmen, cooks, souvenir producers, etc) and 26 surrounding villages receive financial benefits through the EBF, - this represents almost 30% of all NEPL NP villages.

Contributed by

jbikova_41241's picture

Janina Bikova WCS - Wildlife Conservation Society