Nam Poui National Protected Area (NPA) is located in Xayabouly Province in northwest Laos. This 1,912-km2 site was identified as a top priority for elephant conservation by the government at a national elephant conservation meeting in 2008.
WWF-Laos has been working on elephant issues in Laos since 2005, but given the government’s prioritisation of Nam Poui, WWF-Laos set out to develop a project in the protected area.
In 2010, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed the MoU for the project, with the overall goal of integrating elephant issues into provincial planning. Since that time, Nam Poui has delivered many successes and can be seen as a model of protection for other sites with elephant populations in Laos.
Threats to the elephant include loss of habitat as a growing population results in encroachment into its ancestral home. As this occurs, elephants may wander from the forest onto farmers’ land, destroying crops and damaging property, leading to human-elephant conflict.
Habitat loss also creates the danger that elephants are unable to follow ancient migratory routes. Small, fragmented populations then become isolated, unable to connect with other herds and in some cases this leads to inbreeding. One of the greatest consequences of this is low breeding success and high juvenile mortality.
Poaching too remains a serious problem with demand for ivory and hides in countries such as China fuelling illegal activities.
The government’s partnership with WWF-Laos focuses to restore, maintain and increase the population of Asian elephant within Nam Poui. To do this, increased monitoring and data collection on wild elephants is conducted, guidelines for land use management are being set out, and illegal human activity is tackled by the increase and effectiveness of patrols.
Together with WWF-Laos' project manager, our law enforcement advisor holds trainings with NPA staff to build their capacity to effectively patrol the area and intercept illegal activity.
“There are between 50 to 60 wild elephants in Nam Poui and we want to make sure they have a safe home. By increasing monitoring and data collection on their population, we are able to plan for their conservation,” said a specialist in elephant conservation from WWF-Laos, Mr Khamkhoun Khounboline.
The overarching goal of the project is to integrate elephant issues into provincial planning, not just in Nam Pouy NPA, but also throughout Laos.