When did Wildlife Conservation Tours in Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park open and what inspired to do so?
The Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park (NEPL NP) is the largest conservation area in the country and is remarkable for its rich wildlife biodiversity with a wide range of species, many endangered, including 6 wildcat species, 2 bear species, Dholes, Northern White Cheeked Gibbons, Phayres Langur, Binturongs, Otters, Hornbills, and numerous other species.
Living inside or immediately adjacent to the National Park are 30,000 villagers from more than 100 communities, many from some of the poorest districts of the country.
To provide an alternative livelihood opportunity for local people, the National Park’s wildlife ecotourism activities opened in late 2009.
The NPL NP ecotours are not only one of the few opportunities in Lao PDR to view wildlife in its natural habitat, but are designed to create a direct link between conservation and tourism so that the money that visitors pay has a positive impact on encouraging local people to protect endangered wildlife. This is achieved through active community involvement and a creation of conservation-linked financial incentive mechanisms.
What has been the most rewarding part of Wildlife Conservation Tours in Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park?
Increasing community support for wildlife conservation. The proof is the increasing wildlife sightings along the ecotourism sites. On the Nam Nern Night Safari wildlife spotting tour, in 2010 only 4 animals could be sighted in average per tour, however, in 2019 already 10 animals. The most common wildlife species to be seen are Sambar Deer, Muntjacs multiple species of Civets, Slow Loris, Spotted Linsang, Burmese Python, and lucky visitors have spotted Asian Golden Cat, Leopard Cat, as well as Bears. Day time boat trip upstream the river offers opportunities for birdwatching, including Blyth’s Kingfishers, Red Jungle Fowl, Mountain Hawk Eagle and many more.
As well as continuously increasing visitor arrivals and the very high visitor satisfaction. In 2019, the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park’s wildlife tours welcomed more than 500 visitors and received the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in years 2018 and 2019, as well as won the World Responsible Tourism Award in 2013 and 2014 as Best for Responsible Wildlife Experience!
What has been your biggest challenge and how have you overcome this?
Creating wildlife conservation incentive mechanism to benefit a large number of villages.
Currently more than 150 households from 4 villages are working on the National Park ecotourism ventures as wildlife spotters, boatmen, porters, cooks, etc. However, almost 100 villages are living around the National Park.
To ensure that the surrounding communities are incentivised to support conservation efforts, and also share in the benefits that ecotourism brings to the area, an Ecotourism Benefits Fund (EBF) was introduced.
Every visitor taking part in a tour contributes to the EBF as part of the total tour price. To create a direct incentive for conservation, the National Park not only delivers to the villages a fixed amount of money for every tourist going on the tour, but an additional amount is provided depending on the numbers and type of wildlife encountered by the visitors on the tour. All visitors required to fill out a wildlife monitoring form at the end of the trip. To encourage conservation efforts, greater incentives are provided for sightings of rarer species. All collected information on seen wildlife during the tours is recorded on an online database and is further incorporated into the National Park’s wildlife-monitoring program.
Currently, the National Park ecotourism program benefits 26 villages or almost 30% of the communities surrounding the protected area.
How has Tab helped Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park?
Collecting advance and instant credit card payments in Lao currency (LAK) with free payouts to Lao bank accounts! A game changer!
You can find out more about Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park on their website at www.namet.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NamNernNightSafariLaos, or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/nametphouloueynationalpark.