New biodiversity and visitor centre set to highlight link between ecotourism and conservation in the south of LaosDec 11, 2017
Xonnabouly, 11 December 2017 – “My dream is to become a teacher for the children in my village” says Veo Kham with shining eyes. “I won’t be able to teach them English, but I can help them with other skills they will need to introduce visitors to our lives, culture and environment. And also to help them sell local handicrafts.” Veo is a young lady living in Ban Xanamsay, a village surrounded by stunning nature 15 minutes behind the entrance of the Ong Mang Wildlife Sanctuary. This is a protected area in Savannakhet’s Xonnabouly district, a forested landscape that will stand at the heart of the land planned to become Lao PDR’s newest national protected area.
Savannakhet Province is home to a unique type of forest landscape, called dry dipterocarp forest. This forest type is of global priority for biodiversity conservation, as it contains an exceptionally wide variety of animals and plants. In spite of pressure from logging, hunting and farming, Savannakhet Province has managed to retain some areas of this forest type.
In order to further ensure conservation of this valuable habitat, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has broken ground on a Dry Dipterocarp Forest Centre this week. The Centre will be the headquarters for a biodiversity center, a center for livelihood activities for the local communities, as well as a visitor center and ecotourism hub. Right in time for this year’s international year of sustainable tourism for development and 2018’s Visit Laos Year.
The endangered Eld’s Deer – in Lao Ong Mang - depends on this forest type and only exists in this part of Lao PDR. “What I like most about the forest are the animals living in it, like the Ong Mang”, says Veo, “they bring visitors and development to our lovely place. People from our community join forces and help protect the forest from activities such as illegal hunting”.
At least four community-based ecotourism sites are planned for development over the next years in the area, supported by a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Global Environment Facility (GEF) project on sustainable forest and land management. One of these sites is located in Ban Xanamsay, a village that is developing home stays and walking trails to a salt lick, where visitor can observe various bird and other animals stock up on minerals. Villagers will be able to work as guides, run the homestays and sell food and handicrafts. Additionally, ecotourism supports wildlife conservation around the communities, as villagers learn to protect the animals and their habitat the tourists come to see.
For more information please contact:
Ms. Ildikó Hámos-Sohlo
Head of Public Information Unit, UNDP Lao PDR
+856 20 7717 7913