Xonbouly, 3 July 2018 – “This place has such an unusually diverse flora and fauna. The king of all the animals found here is the Eld’s Deer, which our Ong Mang Wildlife Sanctuary is named after. This is a highly endangered species that there are only about 80-100 examples of. This place has so much in stock for tourists, so we are currently planning homestays in villages, 2-day sleep-in-the-forest programs, wildlife watching activities and boat trips.” This excited pitch comes from Mr. Khaisy Vongphoumy, Ecotourism Specialist, engaged with a project on sustainable forest and land management, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
What Khaisy is referring to is a unique type of forest, called dry dipterocarp forest. In spite of pressure from logging, hunting and farming, Savannakhet Province has managed to protect some areas of this forest type, and is now working on sustainably managing this valuable ecosystem. Without focused attention, the forest degradation would lead to desertification.
A significant step towards this goal was today’s opening of the Ong Mang Eco-Centre in Xonbouly District, which is to become the headquarters for a planned national protected area and a center for livelihood for the local communities, as well as a training facility, visitor center and ecotourism hub. Ecotourism supports wildlife conservation around the communities, as villagers learn to protect the animals and their habitat, which the tourists come to see.
The Ong Mang Eco-Center was jointly opened by Mr. Thonekeo Phoutthakaiya, Vice Governor of Savannakhet Province and Ms. Kaarina Immonen, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator. The Center houses offices and meeting rooms, where information about the dry dipterocarp forest and its wildlife is available, as well as a tree nursery and accommodation for guests.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Immonen stressed the importance of communities in conserving habitats and biodiversity: “These forests are a vital resource for communities who depend on forest products and ecosystem services. Engaging villagers in ecotourism and conservation activities will build a sense of ownership among local communities who will then become custodians of biodiversity and ecosystem reserves.”
After a joint tree planting activity in the garden of the Eco-Center, guests had the opportunity to visit the Ong Mang Wildlife Sanctuary, where they met with rangers and admired the stunning nature of the habitat. A walk through this special habitat revealed fresh Eld’s Deer tracks pointed out by the project team members. Evidence that this endangered species is present in this area, and a sign that another visit to this site in order.
Please read this article in Lao.
For more information please contact:
Dr. Margaret Jones-Williams
UNDP Environment Unit Chief