(Vientiane Times News) The Eld's deer population in Savannakhet province's dry dipterocarp forest has reached a three-fold increase, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF-Laos) recent assessment.
WWF-Laos, in partnership with the province's Xonnabouly district authorities, organised a meeting earlier this month to evaluate the Eld's Deer project which came to the conclusion of its' third phase.
The Eld's Deer project is one of many conservation projects operated by WWF-Laos in the country. The three-phase plan in a district of Savannakhet province began in 2008 after the endangered species was newly discovered in 2002 and the sanctuary founded in 2005.
At the onset of the project, there were approximately 30 Eld's deer in the sanctuary. Thanks to the sizable effort of the project team, who benefitted from exemplary support from provincial, district and villages authorities, the population of Eld's deer has increased three-fold, to reach an estimated 100 animals to-date living in the sanctuary, an area of approximately 93,000 hectares of dry forest in Xonnabouly, according to a press release given to Vientiane Times on Friday.
Eighteen representatives and invited guests from several departments at the provincial and district levels, who joined to assess the results of the project, attended the recent meeting.
Mr. Khamphanh Khounsaksi, Xonnabouly district Governor said at the meeting “Eld's deer is a symbol of good luck and we should all play our part to help in pr otecting this beautiful creature and iconic species of Savannakhet province”.
“Eld's deer can also play a major role in promoting eco-tourism in the province,” he added.
One day before the meeting was held, the WWF-Laos team, government partners from the district, together with the patrolling team of the protected area conducted a 3-hour study tour in the protected habitat of the Eld's deer -the only sanctuary for this species in Laos - and had a chance take in the enchanting scenery of the dry forest, while learning more about the work being done by WWF-Laos to save the deer.
The district governor thanked the project team for their work, which, aside from protecting and increasing the population of Eld's deer, also focused on raising awareness of the vital importance of biodiversity conservation, environmental stewardship, and gender equity within communities nearby the sanctuary.
In his closing remark at the meeting, WWF-Laos Country Director Mr. Somphone Bouasavanh said “The project's purpose is not just to increase the Eld's deer population but also to ensure a participatory conservation approach for fostering a healthy dry forest ecosystem”.
“Such an approach is critical for the livelihoods and quality of life of the people who live in-and-around the project site,” he added.
The government has just signed a new United Nations Development Programme project funded by the Global Environment Facility to be implemented over the next 6 years from 2016 to 2022. The project is entitled “Sustainable Forest and Land Management in the Dry Dipterocarp Forest Ecosystems of Southern Laos” with a budget of approximately US$12 million.
The new project will be implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and will help the country manage its natural resources, including the dry dipterocarp forests and the Eld's deer, through protected area management and land use planning, as well as to support improved livelihoods and income generation for local communities.
By Times Reporters
15 August 2016