Press Releases | WWF

Press Releases

Snaring crisis devastating Asia’s wildlife, jeopardizing decades of tiger conservation efforts

29 July 2017 – On Global Tiger Day today, WWF is urging tiger-range governments to strengthen anti-poaching efforts and crack down on a severe wildlife snaring crisis that is threatening wildlife across Asia, especially the world’s remaining wild tigers, which number only around 3,900.
Easy to make from widely available material such as bicycle cable wires and quick to set up, wire snares are deadly traps that are fast becoming the plague of Asia’s forests. Driven by the growing illegal wildlife trade, which is now reaching an estimated US$20 billion annually poachers are increasingly using snares to trap wild tigers, elephants, leopards and other animals that are in high demand in the black market.  
“Snares are dangerous, insidious and quickly becoming a major contributor to the wave of extinction that is spreading throughout Southeast Asia – and tigers are being swept up in this crisis. All efforts to recover wild tigers are now imperiled by snaring on a massive scale. We cannot over emphasize the need for strong government commitment and investment in rangers who are on the frontline of conservation, clearing snares and apprehending those who set them,” said Mike Baltzer, Leader of WWF Tigers Alive.
In the rare occasion that a wild tiger is able to escape a snare, it suffers debilitating injuries that prevent it from hunting, eventually causing it to die of starvation or infection. In addition, snares maim or kill any animal that activates them thus dealing a double blow to wild tigers, by trapping the prey base they need to survive and reproduce.
“It’s impossible to know how many snares are being set up every day, and threatening wildlife in these critical habitats. Hundreds of thousands of deadly snares are removed by rangers from Asia’s protected areas annually, but this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Rohit Singh, wildlife law enforcement expert at WWF.
Within the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the only place on Earth where wild tigers, orangutans, elephants and rhinos are found in the same habitat, snare traps are estimated to have doubled between 2006 and 2014. 
Yet, many of such critical habitats lack adequate resources for protection. In nearby Rimbang Baling, one of several protected areas in Sumatra, there are only two full-time government rangers out of a total of 26 mostly community-based rangers. Together, they patrol over 1,400 square kilometres, an area equivalent to nearly twice the size of New York City.
“Removing these silent traps is not enough. Rangers on the ground must be supported by greater resources and strong legislation to take action against illegal poachers with snares,” added Singh. “In addition, local communities must also be recognized and empowered as stakeholders in conservation. Protecting biodiversity is in the interest of both wildlife and people and communities can play a critical role in safeguarding vital ecosystems.”
In the Gunung Leuser National Park, which makes up just about a third of the entire World Heritage site in Sumatra, ecosystem services are valued at over US$ 600 million per year, while the park stores over 1.6 billion tons of carbon and provides water to four million people. Local communities rely heavily on these critical resources to survive, making it an even stronger imperative to halt the snaring crisis, and help safeguard the livelihoods of local communities.
As snares tighten their grip across Asia, conservation organizations across the continent are calling for urgent action. For example, in Cambodia, conservation groups led by Wildlife Alliance are launching an awareness movement to educate the public on avoiding the consumption of wild meat, which further fuels the snaring crisis.
In 2010, tiger range governments committed to the most ambitious conservation goal set for a single species – TX2, or the global goal to double wild tigers by 2022. Since 2016, the long trend of decline in global wild tiger numbers has halted for now and may even begin to rise, signaling a beacon of hope for global tiger conservation. Without urgent efforts to strengthen anti-poaching and reinforce investments in rangers, the poaching crisis will turn the trend back towards decline.
Notes to Editors
  1. Illegal wildlife trade is estimated to reach USD20 billion per year, which makes wildlife trafficking the world's 4th largest illicit trade, after narcotics, human trafficking and trade in counterfeit goods.
  2. The number of snare traps in Sumatra recorded in 2013 and 2014 are doubled, when compared to the preceding eight years, suggesting a higher number of poachers in the area. Data is based on a study by D. Risdianto et al., Biological Conservation, Vol. 204 Part B, pp. 306-312, 2016.
  3. Based on WWF’s report,Not for Sale’, 2017, by Dalberg Global Development Advisors.

For further information
WWF International Media | +44 7887 954116
Jialing Lim
Communications Manager, WWF Tigers Alive | +65 9298 0961
About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries.  WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit for latest news and media resources.

WWF celebrates the greatest successes of the last year on World Wildlife Day

Today marks the third anniversary of World Wildlife Day, a day dedicated to celebrate the precious animals and plant life that share our planet.  WWF is taking this opportunity to reflect on the five greatest successes for wildlife over the last year.

Five of the greatest success stories for wildlife (March 2016-2017):

ï    Wild tiger numbers increase for the first time in conservation history

ï    Pandas are no longer classified as ‘endangered’

ï    All trade in the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin, is now illegal

ï    Saving World Heritage sites – home to iconic species including elephants, rhinos dolphins and marine turtles

ï    China, home to the world’s largest legal ivory trade market announces closure by end of 2017


Last year it was revealed that there could be a 67 per cent decline* by 2020 in global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles and that there already had been a 58 per cent decline between 1970 and 2012. WWF and ZSL’s Living Planet Report 2016, shows that humans are pushing species populations to the edge as people overpower the planet for the first time in Earth’s history. 

Margaret Kinnaird, WWF’s Wildlife Practice leader, comments: 

 “We are at a pivotal point for many of the most fragile species, threatened by human activity including the ongoing poaching crisis, impacts of climate change and habitat destruction.  However, despite these grave threats, the past year has welcomed wildlife successes that will go down in conservation history. There’s still a long road ahead and small but significant victories hang on a knife edge. It is vital that the progress made over the past twelve months develops further and this momentum is shared worldwide. We want to see greater achievements still for World Wildlife Day 2018.” 

Success stories 2016-2017:

Wild tiger numbers increase for the first time in conservation history 

In April, the number of wild tigers was revised to 3,890 making conservation history as the first recorded time that global numbers of wild tigers have increased. The updated minimum figure, compiled from IUCN data and the latest national tiger surveys, indicates a greater number of individuals than the 2010 estimate of ‘as few as 3,200’ due to concerted efforts from governments, communities and NGO’s. 


Pandas are no longer classified as ‘endangered’

In September, the IUCN announced that the giant panda would be downgraded from endangered to vulnerable as a result of a recent 17 per cent increase in population numbers. This positive step highlighted how a holistic approach integrating government and local communities can help save our planet's vanishing biodiversity. The progression of panda populations from endangered to vulnerable not only strengthens the long term survival of China's giant pandas but also signifies greater protection of their unique habitat. 

All trade in the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin, is now illegal

During the world’s largest illegal wildlife trade meeting (CITES CoP17) last September, countries untied to strengthen protection for the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin. All legal trade of pangolins has 




now ended thanks to an international agreement to further protect the critically endangered species from extinction.


Saving World Heritage sites

Half of natural world heritage sites are at risk from industrial activity including mining, dredging and oil and gas drilling. These treasured sites are also home to many threatened iconic species.


In October, Belize’s barrier reef home to dolphins and marine turtles, received a reprieve from seismic surveying after officials agreed to suspend the seismic portion of offshore oil exploration. Following WWF’s public campaign, in December the Spanish government cancelled plans to dredge Doñana National Park. The site harbours over 4,000 types of plants and animals, including threatened birds and the world’s rarest feline species, the Iberian lynx. 

WWF is still campaigning for zero elephant poaching in Selous Game Reserve, one of Africa’s largest wilderness areas. In less than 40 years, it’s lost about 90 per cent of its elephants.  WWF is calling for the public to join the campaign to achieve zero poaching of elephants in Selous by 2018 and stop industrial scale activities. 

China, home to the world’s largest legal ivory trade market announces closure by end of 2017

In December, China made history by announcing its ban in domestic trade in ivory, committing to closing legal markets by the end of 2017. This ushers in an end to the world’s primary legal ivory market and is a major boost to international efforts to tackle the elephant poaching crisis in Africa, where up to 20,000 elephants are taken illegally each year.




Notes to the Editor

Visit at

*For more information visit our Living Planet Report 2016 at panda.or

For more information please contact: Lianne Mason | WWF | | +44 7771818699 


WWF and Partners Celebrate Six Years of Successful Forest and Wildlife Conservation in Central Annamites of Laos and Vietnam



Hue City, Vietnam, April 20, 2017 -- A ground-breaking partnership has resulted in the protection of more than 240,000 hectares of forests in the Central Annamite Mountains joining Laos and Vietnam, the discovery of new wildlife species – including the re-discovery of the saola -- and the creation of a world class forest guard system, WWF said today in celebrating the conclusion of the six year programme. 


The Carbon Sinks and Biodiversity Partnership (CarBi) is the largest and most ambitious transboundary programme in the history of WWF’s involvement in the Greater Mekong region. Supported by KFW, CarBi is a partnership with the Governments of Vietnam and Laos, development partners and other donors, local governments and local communities. Its goal is to halt deforestation through forest protection and sustainable use of forest resources, while preserving the unique species diversity of the Central Annamites, one of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems. 


The partnership’s name comes from the central idea that avoiding deforestation and restoring degraded forests is essential to the preservation of biodiversity and the ability of forests to store carbon. Releasing carbon dioxide through deforestation is a major cause of climate change. 


“Over the past six years, the Governments of Vietnam and Laos have worked with local communities in the Central Annamites to do something unprecedented -- create a world class protected area system with highly trained forest guards, thousands of hectares of restored forest and the discovery and protection of some of the Planet’s most endangered species,” said Fanie Bekker, Transboundary Director, CarBi. 


The numerous successes of the CarBi Partnership include an extensive camera trapping monitoring programme, in partnership with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, that has conducted more than 67,000 trap nights in the past six years. Highlights include the rediscovery of the Saola in Vietnam – one of the world’s rarest large mammals -- by a CarBi supported camera trap survey in 2013 after it had not been recorded for 15 years. Biodiversity surveys have revealed a new snake species and improved our understanding of the presence of species such as the Asiatic black bear and Annamite Striped Rabbit.


The CarBi Forest Guard system has developed a robust track record of world class patrolling and data collection, and more than 100,000 snares have been removed and 1,800 logging camps destroyed. In addition, the management effectiveness of protected areas has improved on average by more than 90%, and the development of a conservation economy has resulted in 16,300 beneficiaries participating in activities, and 170,000 work days generating around $1.8 million USD in income. This has measurably reduced the pressure on forest resources by providing sustainable alternatives to logging, poaching and other destructive activities. 


“Through working with CarBi, capacity of rangers and the nature reserve’s officials have been grown significantly, especially skills in protected area management and field research,” said Mr. Nguyen Dai Anh Tuan, Forest Protection Department Director of Thua Thien Hue in Vietnam, and Director of the province’s CarBi Project Management Unit. “The establishment and maintenance of the forest guard model, whose members are mostly from ethnic minority groups living around the buffer zone, has proved that biodiversity conservation is part of the local community. This model has significantly improved the awareness of the local communities in protecting forest resources and helped them understand their important connection with natural ecosystems surrounding them.”


In partnership with provincial and national counterparts, CarBi promoted improved forest management and control of illegal wildlife and timber trade in bordering provinces to ensure the connectivity of Laos and Vietnam green corridors As a result, the Laos Government tightened the control of logging and introduced a moratorium on the export of timber from natural forests, resulting in an 84 percent drop in exports of round wood from Lao PDR to Vietnam  in the first six months of 2016.


“CarBi has made significant contributions to forest protection and cutting edge biodiversity conservation. A number of successful activities have been carried out, including capacity building and awareness raising, extensive law enforcement, biodiversity monitoring, forest restoration, supporting payment for environmental services, as well as engaging local people in biodiversity conservation, resulting in enhanced and diversified livelihoods. CarBi has created some fresh motivation for biodiversity conservation activities in Quang Nam Province,” said Phan Tuan, head of Vietnam’s Quang Nam Forest Protection Department, and Director of the province’s CarBi’s Project Management Unit.

“After 6 years, the CarBi Project has proven its capacity and commitment through outstanding achievements which have regional and global impacts,” said Christian Haas, Director, KFW Office, Hanoi. “From bringing two countries (Laos and Vietnam) together at the borders, to controlling illegal timber and wildlife trade, to the world-rocking rediscovery of saola, to generating thousands of day works for local people, to improving capacity of hundreds of government authorities and local people, the CarBi Project has put a smile on our faces when seeing its outcomes."

"CarBi has provided us with a clear window into the unique biodiversity treasures of Xe Sap, and also supported the Laos government to enhance its management effectiveness significantly. The piloting of the Biodiversity Conservation Agreements with selected communities, has also paved the way for upscaling in other areas of Laos,” said Keophaylin Ngonephetsy, Government Project Coordinator, Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Xekong Province.



Note to Editors: For photos and more detailed information about CarBi, including a book about the entire partnership, go to:

For More Information: Lee Poston, WWF Greater Mekong,, +66 (0)9 188 322 90, or Ngan Nguyen Thi Phuong, WWF-Vietnam,, +84 986 117 600


About WWF Greater Mekong: The Greater Mekong is home to some of the planet’s most endangered wild species, including the tiger, saola, Asian elephant, Mekong dolphin and Mekong giant catfish. A total of 2,409 new species of plants, birds, mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles have been discovered in the Greater Mekong since 1997. WWF-Greater Mekong works on conservation initiatives through country programmes in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. WWF-Greater Mekong’s mission is a future where humans live in harmony with nature. To learn more about WWF’s activities, please visit us at


New field ranger training guidelines, could save the lives of those on the front line of the poaching battle

9 February 2017 - In the midst of a global poaching crisis, today marks the launch of the most comprehensive Training Guidelines for Field Rangers, providing anti-poaching units with a revolutionary resource to improve conditions and training on the front line. This is the first of its kind and a resource which could save the lives of both humans and wildlife.

Over the past decade, more than 1,000 rangers have been killed on duty*, with 80 per cent murdered by poachers and armed militia groups. This tragic loss of life underlines the need for well-trained and well-equipped anti-poaching rangers.

The team of experts who developed this resource have over a century of combined experience and are amongst the most respected wildlife rangers in the world. This is the first in a series of guidelines that will be rolled out worldwide by the International Ranger Federation, the Global Tiger Forum, Thin Green Line Foundation, PAMS Foundation and WWF.

Sean Willmore, President - International Ranger Federation, comments:
“The illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products is resulting in significant declines in the populations of many species across the globe. For example, the levels of poaching of elephants, rhinos, pangolins and tigers are threatening these species with extinction in the wild. Anti-poaching training needs to be effective so that protected area authorities and rangers can better safeguard wildlife from this grave threat.”

The illegal wildlife trade is the fourth most lucrative criminal trade and estimated to be worth at least USD $19 billion per year. Poachers targeting iconic species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers are using increasingly sophisticated techniques and violent tactics to fulfil their missions. The deployment of insufficiently trained rangers has at times resulted in the failure of operations, serious injuries and even death. Many rangers still have no insurance today; should they suffer injuries – or even death – they would no longer able to provide for their families.

Dr Rajesh Gopal, Secretary General – Global Tiger Forum, comments:
“The stark reality for rangers means facing the threat of serious injury or the loss of life on a daily basis. Very often, operations fail due to lack of training, funding and staffing. This must change if we hope to protect our wildlife and greatly improve the lives of those striving to do so.”

Last year, WWF carried out the first ever Ranger Perception Surveys that were completed by wildlife rangers across Asia and Africa. The results revealed that most rangers had faced a life-threatening situation while on duty, and believe that they are underequipped. Nearly half felt they lacked adequate training to do their jobs safely and effectively.

Wayne Lotter: PAMS Foundation
“It is essential that rangers have the essential skills and tools training to do their job safely and successfully. The development of the best practice guidelines represents a landmark step in the process towards ensuring that anti-poaching rangers get the level of training they deserve.”

Field ranger basic training is the most important part of the development of field rangers. It prepares them for the actual circumstances that they will encounter during the day-to-day tasks to be performed once employed as field rangers.

Field rangers play a critical role in safeguarding the world’s most endangered species. Recent figures revealed around 20,000 elephants are poached every year in Africa. Since Selous Game Reserve became a World Heritage site in 1982, nearly 90% of its elephants have been lost mainly due to poaching. Selous now risks losing its World Heritage status. Across Asia, the 13 tiger ranger countries are working tirelessly to double tiger numbers by 2022 - the illegal wildlife trade is one of the greatest threats with recent progress hanging on a knife edge due to this illicit activity.


Notes to Editor

The Training Guidelines for Field Rangers is the first of a series of guidelines to provide a standard for training field rangers. These guidelines are the result of a collaborative initiative from International Ranger Federation, Global Tiger Forum, PAMS Foundation, WWF, The Thin Green Line Foundation, United For Rangers (UFR), Southern African Wildlife College, International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), Conservation International, African Parks Network, TRAFFIC, Panthera, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC).

For more information please contact:
Lianne Mason | WWF-UK | | +44 777 1818699
Rohit Singh | Wildlife Law Enforcement Specialist |WWF Wildlife Crime Initiative | |+855 952028949


Lao PDR and Vietnam to Cooperate on Combating Illegal Timber and Wildlife Trade Across Borders

Cracking down on illegal production and trading in forest products, as well as combatting illegal wildlife trade are to receive a major boost through a new trans border cooperative agreement between Lao PDR and Vietnam. The agreement is welcome news in advance of a major international conference on illegal wildlife trade to take place in Hanoi, Vietnam November 17-18.

A bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office (PAFO), Attapeu Province, Lao PDR, and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Kon Tum Province Vietnam, was signed earlier this month (19 Oct. 2016) by Mr. Sounthone Leuammalaysy, Deputy Director of Attapeu PAFO, and Mr. Nguyen Kim Phuong, Deputy Director of Kon Tum DARD, Kon Tum Province Vietnam.

The main objective of the agreement is to enhance and streamline cooperation in forest management and protection starting in 2017, in order to prevent unauthorized harvesting, poaching, trading and transporting of timber, forest products and wildlife in the border provinces of Kon Tum in Vietnam and Attapeu in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

The MoU further stipulates that the two parties shall:
  1. Cooperate closely on information exchange, including all knowledge and experiences related to controlling and preventing all illegal timber and wildlife activity in the border areas of these two provinces. Each party also agreed to intensify strict monitoring of imports and exports of timber and other forest products, as well as wildlife, along the borders in both provinces.
  2. Conduct a cooperative awareness-raising campaign to educate the public on the importance of protecting forest resources and enhancing biodiversity conservation.
  3. Enhance cooperation between forest protection departments and other local departments (inspectors, border military personnel and police forces, forest reserves and protection units and customs officers) in forest management and protection.
  4. Share all information pertaining to any detected cases of illegal activity in concerned provinces on either sides of the border and cooperate on handling these cases.
  5. Cooperate on several other forestry and agriculture activities
  6. Organize an annual meeting to exchange, to update all concerned parties on on-going forest management and protection activities, including yearly work plans. The first meeting will be held in late 2017 in Attapeu Province Lao PDR.
“This agreement is a fundamental step to secure the Lao and Vietnam borders from illegal timber and wildlife trade.  Collaboration within such a framework, aided by rigorous implementation, sharing and monitoring, will help both countries make huge strides in protecting their forests, and in turn their people” said Mr. Khamseng Homdouangxay, Conservation Programme Coordinator, WWF-Laos.

In August 30-31th 2016, a high-level delegation from the Lao PDR traveled to Danang, Vietnam, to lay the groundwork for the agreement.  The Lao delegation was led by Mr. Khamphout Phandanouvong, Director General of Department of Forest Inspection (DoFI) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), and included PAFO directors for Khammouan and Attapeu provinces and Provincial Forest Inspection Division directors from six central and southern Lao provinces. Vietnam counterparts at the Danang meeting were led by Mr. Vu Trong Kim -Deputy General Director of the Forest Protection Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and included representatives from forest protection agencies from border provinces. Representative of WWF Vietnam and Laos also attended this important event.
During the meeting in Danang, bilateral cooperation was reviewed by both parties, who mutually acknowledged commitments to international treaties and conventions both governments have ratified, notably the implementation of timber traceability systems, fostering scientific research and knowledge sharing.
Earlier this year, Lao PDR Prime Minster’s Order N.15 was issued, with a clear direction on strictly banning all illegal timber activity in Lao PDR. This reaffirmed the will of the Lao government to crackdown on illegal timber trade and was welcomed by authorities in Vietnam, who reiterated their commitment on collaborating with Lao authorities towards successful implementation of this order.
Under the EU funded Forest Law Enforcement Governance & Trade/Voluntary Partnership Agreement Project (FLEGT-VPA), WWF Laos and Vietnam have been providing technical and financial support the Department Of Forest Inspection in Laos (DOFI) and the Vietnam Administration of Forestry (VNForest) towards the development of the legal framework for timber, and to ensure the effectiveness of trans-boundary cooperation. 

“Illegal wildlife and timber trade are complex issues requiring collaborative agreements across borders,” added Mr. Nguyen Anh Quoc, Central Annamites Landscape Manager, WWF-Vietnam. “We expect that this model of cooperation will be replicated and expanded in the near future to a number of other concerned border provinces in Lao PDR and Vietnam.”

Integrating multiple land uses for improved livelihoods and landscape resilience in Laos


Vientiane, 31st October 2016WWF-Laos took part earlier this month in the very first New Generation Plantations (NGP) study tour held in Laos from 17 to 23 October 2016.

The NGP field visit, co-hosted by Stora Enso Laos and WWF-Laos, brought together over 60 practitioners from various fields and many different parts of the world. The event was supported by WWF-International, Stora Enso Laos and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC).

During the week-long event, participants sought to understand more about the challenges facing local farmers in Laos, and how well-managed plantations can contribute to improving the livelihoods of local people.
Participants also had the chance to share their knowledge, insights and experiences – including examples of local stakeholders successfully participating in plantation development.
“The NGP study tour was a great opportunity to learn from best practices in the plantations business”, said Mrs. Sidavone Chanthavong, WWF-Laos’s Forest Coordinator. “Many plantations companies do not take the livelihoods of local people as seriously as Stora Enso does”, she continued, “and it was very informative to learn that forest plantations can be done in a socially-responsible way, with the objectives of creating value shared with local communities and contributing to the protection of natural ecosystems”.
Plantations that are planned and managed properly indeed create socio-economic opportunities for local people, including increased access to electricity, education and health facilities, but can also contribute to biodiversity conservation through improved land-use planning, the creation of buffer zones and increasing awareness of the relevant environmental laws.
Stora Enso Laos also helps to deal with one of the major challenges for people in rural areas in Southern Laos, namely the risk from unexploded ordinance (UXO) left from the USA’s bombing of Laos during the Vietnam War, which has left large areas uncultivated, and lacking in infrastructure.
The New Generation Plantations platform works toward a vision of forest plantations that contribute positively to the welfare of local communities and do not replace natural forests or other important ecosystems. WWF-International manages the NGP platform with participation from companies and governments around the world. The platform is a place to share ideas and learn about better practices through real-world examples. Study tours serve as a key learning point and give an opportunity to share first-hand experiences, by bringing together people of various backgrounds with different values, perspectives, knowledge and experiences. This stimulates people to critically reflect on their understanding of common challenges and questions.
Stora Enso has been participating in the NGP platform since 2007, and has a pilot plantation in Laos, which combines tree growing with food production. For the villagers, these plantations offer the possibility to grow food safely. But there are other benefits, too: compared to the traditional shifting cultivation, rice yields are better. There is also less need to clear new ground by burning native forest, so the impact on local biodiversity is greatly reduced.
“Plantations are usually seen by conservationists as a threat to biodiversity conservation” said Mr Francois Guegan, WWF Laos’ Deputy Country Director. “While it is true that some companies follow completely unsustainable practices, what we saw this week in Stora Enso’s plantations is very different. In the context of Laos, where local livelihoods have always been heavily dependent on the exploitation of natural capital, forest plantations – if planned properly and managed responsibly – can actually become an agent of positive change and participate in the preservation of natural capital and contribute to the conservation of Laos’ fantastic biodiversity”.

Irrawaddy dolphins functionally extinct in Laos: WWF

Only Three Dolphins Left in Southern Laos as WWF calls for immediate ban on all gill nets near dolphin pools
Bangkok -- The population of critically endangered Mekong River Dolphins (also known as Irrawaddy Dolphins) in the Cheuteal trans-boundary pool between southern Laos and northern Cambodia has shrunk by 50% this year alone and the population is functionally extinct in Laos, WWF said today.

WWF survey teams from Laos and Cambodia conducted a dolphin abundance survey and confirmed the current number and breeding status of the dolphins in the transboundary pool. Down to just three individuals – from six just earlier this year – there is now little hope for a reversal of the situation, as the small population is no longer viable.  “Functional extinction” results when there are too few potential breeding pairs available to ensure the survival of the population. 

The use of gill nets (especially unmanned gill nets) is thought to be one of the main reasons for the demise of the dolphins. Gill nets are vertical panels of netting set in a straight line across a river to catch fish. Being large aquatic mammals, Mekong River dolphins – as well as other endangered aquatic species-- are often caught in gill nets, and drown as a consequence.

The use of gill nets in the Mekong River is prohibited in Cambodia – where there are an estimated 80 dolphins – but not in Laos. Only the actual deep pool off Hangsadam Village, where the dolphins are, is protected. Gill nets are, however, used directly outside of the pool where the dolphins often swim and risk being trapped. 

WWF calls for an immediate ban on all gill nets for a two kilometers radius around the Cheuteal Pool (4 km in the rainy season) and increased enforcement against violators. WWF also calls for increased enforcement of gillnet bans in other Mekong River dolphin pools to protect the remaining dolphin populations.
“The alarming decline of Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins in Laos that we have witnessed this year is tragic.  At this stage, we fear that in a year or two, there may be no more dolphins in Laos,” said Teak Seng, WWF Conservation Director for the Greater Mekong.
“The loss of this iconic species for Laos is even more tragic given that it was entirely preventable through strict enforcement against gill net fishing.”
The Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River have long been a favorite attraction among travelers and tourists in southern Laos.  Their feared disappearance from Lao waters may cause a hard blow to eco-tourism in the area.

Irrawaddy dolphins can be found in some coastal areas in Asia but there are only three freshwater subpopulations, in the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar, the Mahakam River in Indonesia, and the Mekong River in Cambodia and the Lao PDR. 

WWF Commends Lao PDR’s Decision to Dismantle Tiger Farms

The Government of Laos’ intention to phase out its tiger farms -- announced at the UN CITES 17th Conference of Parties last week in Johannesburg, South Africa -- is a major step against fighting the illegal wildlife trade, WWF said today. 
The announcement comes after the Lao PDR received criticism from CITES about the lack of action to date to eradicate illegal wildlife trade in the country. Amongst its recommendations, the latest CITES report highlights critical gaps in legislative coverage, a lack of law enforcement effort and a need to work with neighbouring countries to address transboundary trafficking of species.
CITES decision 14.69 imposes to countries signatory to the convention that tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives. In announcing the decision to phase out tiger farms, Official representatives of the Lao delegation reportedly said: “We support the retention of Decision 14.69 as a valid decision and urge all Parties to implement it as a matter of urgency, as we intend to do so”.  
"WWF-Laos welcomes the move by the Lao Government to close its tiger farms. It is high time that the illegal trafficking of wildlife is dealt with for good.  The task of closing tiger farms in Laos will require cooperation from multiple agencies and WWF-Laos stands ready to provide technical assistance to tackle this task head-on, and is willing to start working with the Lao Government on a detailed phase-out plan of all illegal tiger farms in the  country” said Somphone Bouasavanh, WWF-Laos Country Director." This is a great moment for Laos to show regional leadership in the fight against illegal wildlife crime, and that this commitment will translate into a model that can be followed by other countries to close down their tiger farms."

WWF currently supports an anti-wildlife crime programme in the Greater Mekong Region, including in the Lao PDR, where illegal wildlife trade markets have recently made international news. The overall objective of this programme is to effectively reduce demand for illegal wildlife products as well as to improve ranger training and to develop new technologies for reporting illegal wildlife trade.
“Laos’ announcement that it will phase out its tiger farms is a welcome first step that needs to be followed with decisive action," said Heather Sohl, WWF-UK’s chief advisor on wildlife, during the CITES convention last week.

There are an estimated 700 tigers bred in three facilities in Laos. Phasing out their operations will need effective cooperation between all relevant Government agencies and their development partners. A major concern will be what to do with the tigers in those farms to ensure that they are well cared for in accredited facilities and do not end up in the illegal wildlife trade chain. 

This also represents an opportunity for Laos to investigate the possibility of a tiger reintroduction programme in selected National Biodiversity Conservation Areas, “rewilding” the forests of Laos.­


Department of Livestock and Fisheries (DLF) and WWF-Laos sign Memorandum of Understanding

Vientiane, 25 August 2016 -- Department of Livestock and Fisheries (DLF) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF-Laos) will meet in Sapnakhone Hotel, Chanthabouly Dist. Vientiane, to officially sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and launch a new community fisheries project in Bolikhamxay and Khammouan provinces for the next 3 years.
The MoU between DLF and WWF-Laos was signed at the Sapnakhone Hotel by Mr. Bounthong Saphakdy, Deputy Director General of the DLF, and Mr. Somphone Bouasavanh, Country Director of WWF-Laos, in the presence of representatives from Bolikhamxay and Khammouan provinces.
The project will aim to improve transboundary freshwater natural resources management via the creation of fish conservation zones (FCZ), fisheries management committees and village patrolling units in 15 villages. It will run in parallel with a similar project in Thailand, in an effort to jointly improve the management of the Mekong River’s rich natural resources. The project will also support local livelihoods and the development of alternative sources of income to reduce pressure on freshwater natural resources. In addition, the project will seek to raise awareness of communities to better understand the benefits of fish conservation and fisheries management.
The 3-year USD 402,000 project is funded by WWF Switzerland and receives technical support from the WWF Greater Mekong Programme Office. To further demonstrate the benefits of fish conservation zones, the DLF and WWF will use systematic monitoring and evaluation processes that will provide scientific grounds for the replication of the community fisheries model in other parts of Laos as well as the Greater Mekong region.
Setting up fish conservation zones has a fundamental importance for both people and the environment. FCZs contribute to the overall improvement of people’s livelihoods by increasing fish stocks and thus the rivers’ fish productivity. FCZs also contribute to freshwater conservation as fish species benefit from safe havens to spawn, feed and shelter.
This new project is the latest in a long-lasting cooperation between the DLF and WWF Laos that started in 2007. At the time, the project also supported villages the southern provinces of Sekong and Attapeu as well as Bokeo province in the north of Laos. Since then, the DLF and WWF have supported the creation of more than 250 fish conservation zones in seven provinces.

WWF-Laos Eld’s Dear Project: Three-fold Increase In Population Of Savanakhet Iconic Species


Vientiane, 12th Aug 2016 - WWF-Laos, in partnership with Xonnabouly District authorities, organized the Eld’s Deer Project Phase III conclusion meeting on 5th Aug 2016 to evaluate the project at Xonnabouly district office, Savanakhet province. 


One day before the meeting was held, the WWF-Laos team and government partners from Xonnabouly District, together with the protected area patrolling team of WWF’s Eld’s Deer project conducted a 3-hour study tour in the project area to see 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 to save Eld’s Deer.   


The Eld’s Deer project is one of many conservation projects operated by WWF-Laos.  The three-phase implementation in Xonnabouly district, Savanakhet province, began in 2008 after the endangered species was discovered in 2005, promoting baseline surveys and feasibility studies for the project.  


At the onset of the project, there were less than 20 Eld’s Deer in the sanctuary. Thanks to sizable efforts 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 more than 100 animals to-date living in the sanctuary, an area of approximately 93,000 hectares of dry forest in Xonnabouly.     


The meeting was officially opened and chaired by Mr. Khamone Thilavong, deputy district mayor of Xonabouly, and was attended by 18 representatives and invited guests from  several departments and line ministries at the provincial and district levels, who joined to asses the results of the project.      


“Eld’s Deer is a symbol of good luck”, said Mr. Khamphanh Khounsaksi, Xonnabouly district mayor, who added that we should all play our part to “help to protect this beautiful creature, and iconic species of the Savanakhet province.” Mr. Khounsaksi also said that Eld’s Deer can play a major role in promoting eco-tourism in the province.  


Mr. Khounasaki also thanked the project team for their work, which, aside from protecting and increasing the population of Eld’s Deer, focused on raising awareness on the vital importance of biodiversity conservation, environmental stewardship and gender equity within communities nearby the sanctuary.  

“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” said Mr. Somphone Bouasavanh, WWF-Laos Country Director during his closing remarks.


The government of Lao PDR has just signed a new UNDP project  funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to be implemented over the 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 Lao PDR” (SFLM) with the budget of approximately 12 million USD. 


This new project will be implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources  and Environment (MONRE) and will help the country to manage its natural resources, including the dry dipterocarp forests and the Elds’s Deer, through protected area management and land use planning, as well as to support improved livelihoods and income generation for local communities.    

For the first three phases, which spanned from 2008 to 2016, the project was operated by WWF-Laos, and benefitted from financial and technical support from WWF International and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), and was be implemented under the leadership of the Department of Forestry Resources Management (DFRM) and Department of Forestry (DoF).